Merck venture to develop vaccines for the poor

Merck and Wellcome Trust have created the MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories, a not-for-profit R&D venture focused on affordable vaccines to prevent diseases common in low-income countries. The partners will equally shared funding and decision-making rights, says an announcement.

The collaboration attempts a difficult business feat: a sustainable organization that operates like a business, but with a not-for-profit operating model. It stands in contrast to such disease-specific nonprofits as the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, which fund specific drug discovery and development tasks in addition to other disease-fighting activities.

Kickoff funding is $130 million over seven years, supporting an R&D staff of about 60. The venture is expected to be located in India, to aid in relationship building with "experts in vaccine research, policy and manufacturing to develop and mature its R&D pipeline," the announcement says.

Vaccines to be developed are expected to include those that require no refrigeration, aiding in distribution, and likely a vaccine against the killer Group A streptococci.

- here's the announcement