GSK will tailor vaccine portfolio, improve access as part of wider Africa initiative

GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has long been a leader in producing vaccines for Africa, but now it's going one step further. The British pharma will tailor a portfolio of meds to address specific health needs on the continent and increase the registration of drugs and vaccines it already has, the company said this week.

The drug giant's commitment includes working with local partner Aspen Pharmacare to make its vaccines and other therapies available in places where they're not already. It's also continuing to develop products like its malaria vaccine that have the potential to make a social and economic impact. To achieve these goals, it's creating an open R&D lab to study noncommunicable diseases and significantly bolstering its African manufacturing presence.

"We have a unique opportunity to deliver meaningful … value to all of the communities we work in--using our scientific expertise and our global reach to develop innovative medicines and deliver them to people who need them around the world," CEO Andrew Witty said in a statement.

GSK has boasted a strong presence in the developing world for some time now, to which its vaccines contribute heavily. One hundred seventy countries around the world feature its vaccines as part of their immunization campaigns, and of 862 million vaccine doses shipped last year, more than 80% were delivered for use in emerging countries. Its Save the Children partnership also looks to bring shots to some of the world's poorest children, with the goal of saving 1 million lives in Africa.

And then there's the malaria vaccine, which could launch in 2015 pending EMA approval. Glaxo's regulatory submission will center on data from Africa's largest-ever clinical trial, which recruited more than 15,000 children in 7 countries; while the jab wards off fewer cases than the company hoped, the study still showed that it halved the number of cases of malaria in infants in the 18 months following vaccination.

An Africa-oriented portfolio is just one piece of GSK's latest initiative; the company will also help train 10,000 new community health workers across sub-Saharan Africa and establish 25 academic chairs at African universities to support skills development in areas like science, engineering and public health, it said.

"With global attention focused on how we support development beyond 2015, now is the moment for business to play a more active role in contributing to a more prosperous future in Africa, investing in infrastructure, building skills and capability to unlock human potential and create jobs," Witty said. "Our long-term goal is to equip Africa to discover, develop and produce the medicines required for Africa."

- read the release

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