BIO Ventures For Global Health Announces Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant To Expand Biotech Industry's Role In Fight Against Neglected Diseases

PHILADELPHIA, June 21 /PRNewswire/ -- BIO Ventures for Global Health today announced it will expand its efforts to enlist biotechnology companies in the fight to improve global health, with a new $5.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. BVGH is a nonprofit venture founded last year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, with support from the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. The announcement was made at BIO 2005, the biotech industry's annual convention.

"The biotech industry has tremendous potential for developing new therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics against diseases of the developing world," said Richard Klausner, MD, executive director of the Gates Foundation's Global Health program. "For too long, funding, market, and information barriers have prevented biotech companies from realizing this potential. We believe that BIO Ventures for Global Health will provide the means to help industry overcome some of these barriers. We congratulate BVGH in taking leadership in helping to bring the potential of biotechnology to improving health equity in our world."

The new grant will help BVGH launch a series of business cases to assess and build market opportunities for neglected diseases. Companies are deterred by an insufficient understanding of developing world markets and many lack the capacity to generate this knowledge on their own. To evaluate whether to invest in a technology, they need information on potential market demand and pathways to get products tested, licensed and distributed. BVGH will fill that gap. The business cases, a tool used regularly by industry, will explore new models for tapping into emerging markets. BVGH's first business case will evaluate the market opportunity for tuberculosis vaccines.

"This grant represents a historic shift in thinking about how to engage the biopharma sector in addressing the unmet health needs of people in developing countries," said Rob Chess, Chairman of BVGH. "We understand the business of biotech and are seeking ways to translate that knowledge into solutions that improve the lives of individuals in the poorest regions of the world."

For markets that are too small to compete with other industry opportunities, BVGH will pursue market incentives to enhance the underlying market and "pull" new industry investment. Over the last year, BVGH has reached out aggressively to biotechnology companies and has represented the industry in talks with the World Bank and the finance ministers of the G7 countries to design advance market commitments to spur biotech innovation for critical products such as AIDS and malaria vaccines.

"BVGH is uniquely placed, with access to -- and intellectual support from -- the most innovative biopharma companies -- large and small," said Jim Greenwood, President of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "BVGH has treated global health as a business from the outset, and funding for their efforts should have a catalytic impact on industry's response to these immense global challenges."

Currently, less than 10 percent of health research funding is targeted to diseases that account for 90 percent of the global disease burden. BVGH aims to radically change that equation.

"The biopharma industry is ready and willing to tackle the tough scientific and technical challenges in global health, but the market has to be there," said BVGH Executive Director Wendy Taylor. "We're creating the business roadmap -- through improved markets and creative new business models -- that will lead industry to those much-needed solutions."

About BIO Ventures for Global Health

BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) is a global, non-profit entity that seeks to break traditional barriers to global health product development, bridging the gap between biotechnology's immense promise and the enormous unmet health needs of the developing world. By uncovering and building new market opportunities -- through better market information, creative business models and new market incentives -- BVGH aims to catalyze industry investment in global health innovations to address the unmet health needs of the poorest regions of the world. More information is online at http://www.bvgh.org.

BIO Ventures for Global Health; Biotechnology Industry Organization

CONTACT: Jonathan Baum of BIO Ventures for Global Health, +1-646-284-1485,jbaum@ghstrat.com; or Debbie Strickland of Biotechnology IndustryOrganization, +1-202-962-9233, dstrickland@bio.org

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