This news report describes GSK advancing the antimalarial drug tafenoquine into Phase III clinical trials. It is nice to see a large pharmaceutical company actively working on a treatment for a tropical disease. The pharmaceutical industry is often criticized for focusing too much on diseases that affect wealthier countries rather than on the medical needs of poor and developing nations.
The development of tafenoquine is a partnership between GSK and Medicines for Malaria Venture, a non-profit organization with a mission to develop novel low-cost antimalaria drugs. I think this is the only real way that such medicines can be developed. Pharmaceutical companies are businesses that can’t succeed unless they can recoup the high costs of pharmaceutical R&D – and selling drugs in poor nations is unfortunately not very compatible with that. Non-profit organizations don’t have to worry about the same fiscal concerns, but they won’t have the drug discovery and development expertise and multinational institutional resources that are essential for running successful large scale clinical trials. Put the two together, though, and you have a model for potential success. I wish them well.