Biotech organization receives $1 million form Bill & Melinda Gates

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today announced the launch of BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), a new nonprofit organization that will work to enlist the biotechnology industry in the fight against neglected diseases. BVGH has received a $1 million start-up grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A bold new experiment, BVGH will work with companies, donors and investors to bring new vaccines, therapies, diagnostics and delivery tools to market in developing nations. The announcement was made at BIO 2004, the biotech industry's annual convention.

"BVGH is unique among public-private partnerships because it is rooted in BIO and it speaks the language of industry," said Carl B. Feldbaum, who is stepping down as BIO's president and is a BVGH board member. "With access to BIO's full range of tools, resources and networks, BVGH can provide companies real strategies to develop products for these underserved markets."

"Biotechnology is a global industry with global responsibilities," explained BVGH Executive Director Wendy Taylor. "BIO Ventures for Global Health will work to tap this industry's immense potential by reaching out to donors and biotech companies with a clear set of market-based tools and strategies to overcome barriers to development."

Market barriers, funding barriers and information barriers have long restricted biotechnology investment in diseases that primarily affect populations outside of North America and Europe. As a result, less than 10% of health research funding is targeted to diseases that account for 90% of the global disease burden. BVGH will work with companies and foundations to identify market opportunities, build new partnerships and secure funding for the most promising new technologies to fight some of the world's most devastating and neglected diseases.

As an initial step, BVGH is creating business cases for specific developing world products; assessing market opportunities; forming partnership and financing strategies; and mapping the clinical, regulatory and distribution pathways. BVGH will promote these business cases to catalyze product development among companies with relevant technologies.

Recognizing the urgent need for capital to support product development, BVGH is creating a new vehicle for funding. With its innovative model of nonprofit sponsorship, grants management and industrial expertise, BVGH will identify and seek funding for the most promising product development projects in the field and is establishing a new mechanism for foundations and other donors to invest in these efforts.

BVGH will publish a quarterly newsletter, BVGH Report, to serve as a resource for biotechnology companies, investors and public-private partnerships working on global health problems, and is launching its web site at www.bvgh.org. The idea for BVGH grew out of discussions with companies and foundations following BIO and the Gates Foundation's Partnering for Global Health meeting in late 2002.

"There's great untapped potential for the biotech sector's incredible R&D engine to develop new health solutions for the developing world," said Richard Klausner, MD, executive director of the Gates Foundation's Global Health program. "We believe that BIO Ventures for Global Health can play an important role in bringing more biotechnology companies into the global health field."

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