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Merck & Co., Inc. And Drugs For Neglected Diseases Initiative Collaborate To Find Treatments For World's Most Neglected Tropical Diseases

November 04, 2017

On the eve of an international meeting bringing together 200 African researchers to discuss progress on research for neglected tropical diseases (NTD), Merck & Co., Inc. and the not-for-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) announced a master agreement to support discovery and development of improved treatments for NTDs.

The agreement covers a wide range of NTDs including visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease that infect millions of people.  As with many other NTDs, there are no adequate treatments available for the world's poorest people.  Current therapies may be toxic, prohibitively expensive, or difficult to administer, particularly in resource-poor settings.

Under terms of the agreement, Merck will contribute small molecule assets and related intellectual property via a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to DNDi to conduct early development programs for drug candidates for the treatment of NTDs like visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.  Further, the structure of the agreement has the potential to include multiple projects relevant to the spectrum of NTDs.  Merck and DNDi will share joint intellectual property on drug candidates generated through early development.  Merck will retain the option to undertake late clinical development and registration of drug candidates at its own expense or in partnership.

"We are excited by this collaboration as it represents the kind of sustainable, long-term commitment which helps us to address critical gaps in drug development for neglected diseases." commented Dr. Shing Chang, research and development director of DNDi.  "Collaborating with companies like Merck, who can commit themselves through industrial development, ensures that the best science will be made available to address the needs of the most neglected patients."

"Merck has a long history of developing treatments for neglected diseases such as river blindness (onchocerciasis), and we are proud to collaborate with DNDi on this important initiative, " said Mervyn J Turner, chief strategy officer, Merck & Co., Inc.  "Through this unique partnership, we hope to accelerate the discovery and development of medicines that will help people in some of the poorest nations."

Both organizations have a legacy of developing and making available treatments which have provided an immediate global health impact.  For example, with industrial partners, DNDi has made available two fixed-dose antimalarial medicines, which have already saved the lives of millions of people.  Merck's discovery and development of ivermectin enabled their ongoing donation program to fight river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

About Neglected Diseases

Diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis and others are infectious diseases that lack commercial markets in developed countries and disproportionately affect the poorest citizens of the world.  These diseases, collectively called "neglected diseases," continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality worldwide and represent an enduring unmet medical need.  Medications for these diseases are often decades old, are difficult to administer, have significant toxicities and are increasingly becoming less effective due to resistance.  Of the 1,556 new drugs approved between 1975 and 2004, only 21 (1.3%) were specifically developed for neglected diseases, even though these diseases account for 11.4% of the global disease burden.

About Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit product development partnership, working to research and develop new and improved treatments for neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and malaria. Founded in 2003 by the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) along with five public research institutions in Brazil, France, India, Kenya, and Malaysia, DNDi has the strongest and most comprehensive kinetoplastid drug portfolio in history - two new malaria medicines have been made available to date, with a new treatment for sleeping sickness ready for use in disease-endemic countries in 2009.  For further information, please consult dndi.

Merck & Co., Inc.