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A fund to help speed drug development for neglected diseases and ensure that resulting drugs are affordable to the poor was proposed alongside the WHO annual assembly in Geneva last week (17-21 May).

The fund — proposed by a consortium of industry and non-governmental organisations — would support product development partnerships (PDPs) between donors, researchers and pharmaceutical companies, to prevent promising research from "languishing on the shelf".

In 2008, one-fifth of the money spent on neglected disease research went through these business-like, donor-financed PDPs. But a "fresh cash injection" is needed to ensure research can progress through to product development. 

"Without substantial new funding, projects will stall," said Paul Herrling, head of the Novartis Institutes for Developing World Medical Research. 

The proposed 'PDP+ Fund' would be a "one-stop-shop for donors". It would coordinate project funding of different PDPs and seek innovative financing schemes to fund research and clinical trials.

But there are still uncertainties as to how the fund would be governed and how funding decisions would be made.