The non-profit Institute for OneWorld Health was launched in 2000 to close the gap between commercial pharmaceutical companies and academic research institutes.
Now, it is close to one of its biggest successes — developing a cheap antibiotic for visceral leishmaniasis, a disease affecting 1.5 million and killing 200,000 a year.
This article in The Economist describes how the institute convinces high-profile organisations to donate intellectual property rights to drugs against diseases affecting the developing world.
Celera Genomics and Yale University have each donated rights to promising compounds for the treatment of Chagas disease and the University of California, Santa Barbara has given rights to a potential treatment for schistosomiasis.
In 2001, the institute took over a World Health Organization (WHO) project investigating the use of paromomycin for Chagas disease.
Having gone through large-scale clinical tests — which the WHO abandoned because of inadequate funds — the drug has been shown to be safe and effective. Moreover, its cost of just US$10 is a fraction of the US$120 price of the current treatment.
The institute has now set its sights on a treatment for diarrhoea, which kills two million people each year.