The European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today (10 June) pledged to pool resources for research into HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, malaria and other poverty-related diseases.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner for research and innovation, signed the agreement in Paris with Bill Gates, the co-founder of the poverty charity.
The two will partner to develop treatments for poverty-related diseases, which affect more than one billion people worldwide, particularly in developing countries.
They hope to speed up the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Our goal in this new partnership is to work together to develop at least one new and better health product per year. This will represent a big step forward for the millions who suffer from poverty-related diseases.”
While European ministers have looked to cut funding in many areas of the next EU long term budget, they have kept financing for development projects intact and secured funding overlaps with other areas such as climate, agriculture and research.
Andris Piebalgs, the commissioner for development, said on Twitter: “Thrilled to find out about EU-Bill Gates research alliance to fight HIV, TB and malaria.”
The agreement with the Gates Foundation will come under the budget for Geoghegan-Quinn’s research and innovation directorate and will form part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
“The key thing is that we need to get the current budget deal closed so that we can get more money for research into poverty related diseases,” EU research and innovation spokesman Michael Jennings told EurActiv, immediately after the partnership's announcement. “The more money the more we can work on poverty-related diseases.”
“With sufficient resources and political commitment, we can together improve the lives of millions before the end of this decade … Partnership with the Commission and other funders is critical to the success of our common mission,” Gates said.
As part of the agreement, the foundation and the European Commission will launch a joint innovation prize at the 2014 Innovation Convention to reward innovations that address global health challenges.
The European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will fund research into HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other neglected infectious diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, Buruli ulcer, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis and sleeping sickness. Many parts of the developing world lack safe and affordable medical care for these poverty-related diseases.
More than one billion people, including 400 million children, suffer from one or more of these diseases. HIV/AIDS alone kills an estimated 2 million people every year, while malaria and tuberculosis together kill an estimated 2.2 million people, the European Commission says.
Much of the work will be carried out through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), so far involving 16 European and 30 sub-Saharan African countries. The European Commission has proposed funding of up to €1 billion from the EU budget to match the contributions of the European partner countries.
Between 2007 and 2011, the foundation and the Commission contributed some €2.4 billion to research and development focused on poverty-related infectious diseases.
- 2014: Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme begins