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Gates Foundation Plans To Invest In Biotech Companies To Improve Global Access To Treatments, Vaccines For Infectious Diseases

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “plans to take equity stakes in up to a dozen biotech companies this year, signaling a shift towards a ‘venture capital’ approach at the world’s biggest philanthropic organization” and “mark[ing] a further move away from its traditional approach of grant-giving and towards a more business-oriented way to support the development of treatments and vaccines for infectious diseases affecting the world’s poor,” the Financial Times reports. Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, said the foundation will make a series of investments worth several million dollars each “and not ask for a return but for global access. … We will specify the countries and the diseases,” according to the newspaper. The Financial Times notes that “[t]he move points to growing interest in working directly with companies rather than primarily through co-operating via non-profit ‘product development partnerships’ or intermediaries such as the Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Tuberculosis Alliance” (Jack, 6/26).

Opinion Pieces Address Child Survival Call to Action

The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Thursday launched the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., during a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces addressing the effort.

Opinion Pieces, Blog Posts Address Child Survival Call to Action

The governments of the United States, India, and Ethiopia, in collaboration with UNICEF, today are scheduled to launch the Child Survival Call to Action in Washington, D.C., a two-day event that brings together world leaders, public health experts, child health advocates and others in an effort to reduce child mortality to 20 per 1,000 by 2035 worldwide, with the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths. The following summarizes several opinion pieces and blog posts addressing the effort.

Despite Decline In Cholera Cases In Haiti, Health Authorities Not Doing Enough, Aid Group Says

“Global and local health authorities are not doing enough to fight a cholera outbreak that continues to claim lives in Haiti, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday,” Agence France-Presse reports (6/15). Despite a decline in the number of cholera cases in Haiti “as the Caribbean nation leaves the annual rainy season,” “the Haitian government and health organizations must continue focusing efforts on stemming the outbreak as the height of the hurricane season nears, said Thierry Goffeau, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Haiti,” the Associated Press/New England Cable News writes (6/15).

VOA News Report Examines PEPFAR's Use Of Generic Drugs, Discusses Search For HIV Vaccine

In a recent edition of VOA News’ “Science In The News,” correspondents Bob Doughty and Shirley Griffith report on “the growing use of generic drugs in fighting HIV” and discuss “the search for an effective vaccine against HIV.” They highlight a study of the effectiveness of PEPFAR conducted by researchers from Brown University in Rhode Island, noting lead researcher Kartik Venkatesh “says the high cost of patented antiretroviral drugs had an immediate influence on the program after it began.” They continue, “American officials considered whether to provide patented drugs to HIV-infected patients, both in the United States and overseas,” adding, “Using generic drugs helped cut the cost of treating a person [in a developing country] from about $1,100 a year to about $300 a year in 2005.”

Cholera Vaccine Stockpiles Could Help Save Lives In Future Outbreaks

In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Helen Matzger, a program officer in new vaccine delivery at the foundation, writes about outbreaks of cholera in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and other areas, and says creating stockpiles of a recently WHO-approved cholera vaccine could help save lives in the future. “The creation of a cholera stockpile is not a panacea; … Still, the cholera vaccine works. Though many of us may never need it, millions of people living in some of the poorest regions of the world face cholera outbreaks all too often. We have a way to alter the course of an outbreak and save lives. Let’s use it,” she concludes (9/19).

Clinical Trial Results Signal 'Promise, Unresolved Challenges' In Finding Effective Dengue Vaccine

The first-ever results from a dengue virus vaccine clinical trial aimed at showing effectiveness “provide signals rather than definitive answers, and a mixture of both promise and unresolved challenges,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, and Ciro de Quadros, executive vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, write in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog. “To date, these represent the most promising indications that a safe, effective vaccine to prevent dengue is technically feasible,” they continue, adding, “At the same time, the results on protection were inconclusive, somewhat inconsistent with the measured immune responses and uneven across the four strains included in the vaccine.”

Annual Number Of Child Deaths Worldwide Fell More Than 40% Between 1990-2011, U.N. Reports

The annual number of child deaths worldwide has fallen more than 40 percent since 1990, “the result of myriad improvements in nutrition, access to vaccines and antibiotics, cleaner deliveries, better care of infants immediately after birth, and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets,” according to “the findings of a report released Wednesday by three United Nations agencies and the World Bank,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 9/12). “In 1990, there were 12 million deaths of young children, but the latest figures … show that deaths had fallen by nearly half, to 6.9 million, by 2011,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/12). “[T]he number of deaths is down by at least 50 percent in eastern, western and southeastern Asia, as well as in northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says, VOA News notes (Schlein, 9/12). However, “[i]n some, mainly sub-Saharan countries, the total number of deaths of children younger than five increased,” BBC News writes, adding, “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso saw annual deaths of children under five rise by 10,000 or more in 2011 as compared with 1990” (Doyle, 9/13).

Researchers Present New Results From RV144 HIV Vaccine Trial At AIDS Vaccine 2012

“A paper published in Nature [on Monday] sheds light on how a vaccine can turn the immune system against [HIV] and so offer protection from infection,” Nature News reports, noting “[t]he results are also being presented at the AIDS Vaccine 2012 conference in Boston, Massachusetts, this week” (Callaway, 9/10). Previous results from a trial called RV144 showed that two vaccines, Sanofi’s Alvac and VaxGen’s Aidsvax, reduced the risk of HIV infection by 31 percent over three years when used together, compared with people who received a placebo, according to Bloomberg (Bennett, 9/10). Last year, researchers showed “that those who responded to the vaccine and fended off HIV tended to produce antibodies against a specific part of the virus’s protein shell called the V1/V2 loop,” Nature News writes, adding, “The study published [Monday] goes a stage further, showing that the people who were vaccinated yet still contracted HIV had been infected by viruses that had mutations in the V2 portion.”

Pakistan Official Says Progress Made In Vaccinating Thousands Of Children Against Polio In Tribal Area

“Pakistan Tuesday claimed progress in vaccinating thousands of children against polio in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan which had been inaccessible due to unrest for about three years,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘Our target was to vaccinate up to 25,000 children in Bara and some 32,000 children in Tirah valley in Khyber and 70 percent success has been achieved,’ top social welfare officer for tribal areas Aftab Durrani told AFP,” the news service writes.