South Africa Becomes First Government to Use the Pool for Open Innovation to Stimulate Neglected Disease Drug Research and Devel

CHICAGO, May 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- South Africa's Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) today became the first government agency to join in the Pool for Open Innovation against Neglected Tropical Diseases.  TIA intends to use intellectual property and know-how from the pool to accelerate its efforts to grow the South African biotechnology sector and enhance the quality of life of those affected by neglected tropical diseases.  Initially, TIA will focus on developing new medicines for tuberculosis and malaria.

TIA's mission is to enhance South Africa's global competitiveness and to deliver socioeconomic value through technological innovation across all sectors of its economy.  This mission requires that the organization find partners that can help bridge the innovation chasm in South Africa. Joining the Pool for Open Innovation gives scientists and the biopharma industry in South Africa the opportunity to be associated with world-renowned players in the drug discovery and development field and to create new medicines that will save lives in South Africa and across the world.  Participating in the pool will give South African researchers access to a greater pool of patents and know-how, which will also benefit the South African National System of Innovation.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced its intention to contribute to a pool for neglected tropical disease research in 2009 and Alnylam joined later that year. BIO Ventures for Global Health serves as the pool's administrator. By emphasizing a more accessible approach to intellectual property and know-how, the Pool for Open Innovation facilitates access to intellectual property and/or technologies for organizations that want to conduct research on treatments for these neglected diseases.  To date, there are more than 2,300 patents in the pool.  The pool will be accessible to industry, non-profit institutions, and academic researchers to conduct research and drug development activities that deliver real benefits for patients in the least developed countries of the world.

"We believe that the Pool for Open Innovation will stimulate, promote, and accelerate innovation in tuberculosis and malaria and drug development in South Africa," said Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, Chairperson, Technology Innovation Agency.  "We are proud to be partnering with GSK, Alnylam, and BIO Ventures for Global Health and look forward to using the technologies and know-how available in the pool to make real strides in developing new medicines for the neglected diseases affecting our citizens and all citizens of the world.  This partnership is an example of how TIA seeks to utilize public/private partnerships to fulfill its mandate."

In South Africa, 1,500 people die every day from tuberculosis; 10% of these are children. Signing a memorandum of understanding for the pool provides a framework that will assist TIA with knowledge transfer, capacity building, and development and commercialization of new and improved medicines to address tuberculosis and other neglected tropical diseases.

As the pool's non-profit administrator, BVGH plays a key role in translating and disseminating the value and benefits of the pool to potential participants, most notably developing country governments, worldwide.

"This partnership with the South African government is an exciting step for the Pool for Open Innovation against Neglected Tropical Diseases," said Melinda Moree, Chief Executive Officer of BIO Ventures for Global Health.  "With some help, emerging economies have the capabilities to play a central role in developing new medicines for neglected diseases.  The assistance from the pool will help South Africa to meet its twin goals of addressing major health needs, and growing its economy."

About the Pool for Open Innovation against Neglected Tropical Diseases

The Pool for Open Innovation was established in February 2009 with the mission of motivating innovative and efficient drug discovery and development by opening access to intellectual property or know-how in neglected tropical disease research.  The diseases targeted by the pool are the 16 diseases identified by the FDA for its own Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) initiative: tuberculosis, malaria, blinding trachoma, buruli ulcer, cholera, dengue/dengue haemorrhagic fever, racunculiasis, fascioliasis, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, soil transmitted helminthiasis, and yaws.  The geographic focus of the pool will be the world's Least Developed Countries as identified by the United Nations and includes much of western and central Africa as well as several countries in Southeast Asia.  GlaxoSmithKline became the first major pharmaceutical company to propose a pool for neglected tropical disease in February 2009; Alnylam Pharmaceuticals joined the pool in July 2009 and BIO Ventures for Global Health was chosen as the administrator of the pool in January 2010.  In January 2010 it was announced that the Emory Institute for Drug Development and iThemba Pharmaceuticals joined the pool to access its know-how, experience, and intellectual property to accelerate their drug discovery initiatives for NTDs.

About TIA

TIA is a new South African public entity that has been established by the South African Government to assist in stimulating and intensifying technological innovation in South Africa in order to improve economic growth as well as enhance quality of life of all South Africans and others by supporting the development and exploitation of technological innovations and interventions and creating an enabling environment in which these can be commercialized. For more information, please visit

About BIO Ventures for Global Health

BIO Ventures for Global Health is a non-profit organization whose mission is to save lives by accelerating the development of novel biotechnology-based drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to address the unmet medical needs of the developing world.  The organization spurs biotech industry involvement in global health product development by increasing biotech and global health partnerships, designing and advocating for compelling market-based incentives, and synthesizing and disseminating critical information and quantitative analysis. For more information, please visit

About GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information, please visit

About Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ALNY)

Alnylam is a biopharmaceutical company developing novel therapeutics based on RNA interference, or RNAi. The company is applying its therapeutic expertise in RNAi to address significant medical needs, many of which cannot effectively be addressed with small molecules or antibodies, the current major classes of drugs. Alnylam is leading the translation of RNAi as a new class of innovative medicines with peer-reviewed research efforts published in the world's top scientific journals including Nature, Nature Medicine, and Cell. The company is leveraging these capabilities to build a broad pipeline of RNAi therapeutics for the treatment of a wide range of disease areas, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), liver cancers, TTR-mediated amyloidosis (ATTR), hypercholesterolemia, and Huntington's disease. In addition, Alnylam formed Alnylam Biotherapeutics, a division of the company focused on the development of RNAi technologies for application in manufacturing processes for biotherapeutic products, including recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies.  The company's leadership position in fundamental patents, technology, and know-how relating to RNAi has enabled it to form major alliances with leading companies including Medtronic, Novartis, Biogen Idec, Roche, Takeda, Kyowa Hakko Kirin, and Cubist. Alnylam and Isis are joint owners of Regulus Therapeutics Inc., a company focused on the discovery, development, and commercialization of microRNA-based therapeutics. Founded in 2002, Alnylam maintains headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  For more information, please visit

SOURCE GlaxoSmithKline