BANGKOK, Oct 10 (AFP) - A global alliance of public and private sector organizations announced Tuesday a major joint initiative to fight tuberculosis (TB), one of the world's deadliest infectious diseases.
"TB is a disease of poverty that prevents millions of people from breaking free of socio-economic barriers," World Health Organization (WHO) head Gro Harlem Bruntland said at the launch of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.
"Together with malaria and HIV/AIDS, it makes up a trio of infectious diseases where the effects on developing countries are so damaging that they seriously impede economic growth and social development," she told reporters in Bangkok.
The public-private partnership is committed to improving TB control by dicovering, developing and making anti-TB drugs available, particularly in those countries worst hit by the disease, at affordable prices, Bruntland said.
"It is an alliance designed to blend the best of the public sector and private sector in achieving a social mission," said Craig Wheeler of the Boston Consulting Group, one of the stakeholders in the Alliance.
One third of the world's population is currently infected with TB. Eight million people develop active tuberculosis every year killing over 5,000 people a day or some 2 million a year, according to WHO figures.
The Global Alliance, a non-profit organization, will operate as a "virtual Research and Development company" raising funds and financing a selected number of private sector drug R and D projects, said Ariel Pablos-Mendez of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is expected to commit 15 million dollars to the project.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has already donated 25 million dollars to the Global Alliance's goal of developing a new vaccine to fight the emergence of multi-drug resistant TB by 2010.
Total funding is expected to exceed 150 million dollars over the next 5 years.