Fighting disease in the developing world | Research & Development | GlaxoSmithKline

Fighting disease in the developing world

Every year millions of people in the world’s poorest countries die from infectious diseases or suffer ill health because they do not have access to basic healthcare services, essential medicines, or vaccines.

We are committed to changing this. To do so however will take more than just innovative scientific thinking. We recognise that to achieve sustainable improvements in access to essential care and medicines in the developing world, we need to have a dedicated strategy devoted to it.

Our approach is therefore structured around five strategic aims:

Directing our R&D activities to reflect the needs of developing countries

As part of our response to the challenges faced in the developing world, we have established a dedicated drug discovery unit at Tres Cantos in Spain. The unit focuses primarily on malaria and tuberculosis, along with certain neglected tropical diseases. Research decisions at Tres Cantos are prioritised on their socio-economic and public health benefits, rather than on commercial returns.

Being more open with our relevant data and research

In our work on the treatment and prevention of malaria and TB we have used the web to share the data from our investigations into potential new treatments. In this way researchers outside of GSK are helping speed up the identification of the most useful compounds from the 13,500 originally trialled in our study on malaria. We have also made public the near 200 compounds we have identified as showing activity against TB.

Partnering with other organisations who share our values

When forming research partnerships, we look for organisations whose principles are aligned with our own. At Tres Cantos we have established an open lab offering space for visiting scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes. These partners come to the Tres Cantos site and work on projects with us, learn from our expertise and share their own, and make use of our world-class facilities.

Building on the success of Tres Cantos Open Lab, we are also creating the world’s first R&D Open Lab for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. The new R&D Open Lab for NCDs will see GSK scientists collaborate with research and scientific centres across Africa from its hub at our Stevenage R&D facility in the UK. They will conduct research to increase understanding of NCDs in Africa, helping to inform prevention and treatment strategies.

Pursuing flexible pricing strategies

We have introduced flexible pricing to ensure our medicines and vaccines reach as many people who need them as possible. For example, we have agreed that the price of our patented medicines in poorest countries will never be more than 25 per cent of what we charge in developed countries. The Access to Medicines Foundation has ranked GSK No.1 in its global Access to Medicines Index, which has been running since 2008.

Rethinking how we recoup our investment in particular treatments

A development such as our malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S - which is currently in late-stage clinical trials in several African countries - would have no market in developed countries to offset its R&D costs. If it proves successful it will bring tremendous health benefit, but only in tropical countries where economies are not strong. We have therefore committed to achieving only a small return on this product - about five per cent. This will be fully reinvested in the development of next generation malaria vaccines or other treatments for diseases of the developing world.