The success of MenAfriVac shows vaccines can be developed outside Big Pharma's walls, but, in most cases, the cost of late-phase trials is too great for charities. Recognizing this, JPMorgan Chase and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have set up a Big Pharma-backed investment fund.
GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Merck ($MRK) and Pfizer's ($PFE) foundation are among the investors in the fund, which will back late-stage development of technologies to fight disease in low-income countries. Having raised $94 million from its initial backers, the Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF) will now start trying to give vaccines and other technologies the financial clout to navigate Phase III trials.
With governments reigning in their spending on aid, JP Morgan Chase believes the fund fills a critical gap in the financing environment. "We found a remarkable pipeline of global health innovations--with as many as 200 new products currently under development through philanthropic, governmental and pharmaceutical industry resources--but lacking capital sufficient to bring them to market," JPMorgan Chase's head of corporate responsibility Peter Scher told ONE, an advocacy organization.
The goals are to commercialize products that improve the health of people in low-income countries and deliver returns to investors. To achieve these dual goals, GHIF will invest in developmental products that have public health applications in developed and emerging markets. Big Pharma companies use a similar strategy for their vaccines, with the higher prices charged in Western markets supporting discounts in low-income countries.