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Rediff.com  » Business » Move to invent new drugs can aid poor nations

Move to invent new drugs can aid poor nations

January 02, 2007 18:31 IST

Two UK-based academicians, including an NRI, claim to have devised a way to invent new medicines and get them to market cheaply to enable millions in poor countries to be cured of infectious diseases and potentially slashing the National Health Service drugs bill.

NRI Sunil Shaunak, professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College, based at Hammersmith hospital, calls their revolutionary new model 'ethical pharmaceuticals.'

According to a report in The Guardian on Tuesday, Shaunak and his colleague from the London School of Pharmacy, Steve Brocchini, have linked up with an Indian biotech company which will manufacture the first drug -- for hepatitis C -- if clinical trials in India, sponsored by the Central government, are successful.

The report said improvements they devise to the molecular structure of an existing, expensive drug turn it technically into a new medicine which is no longer under a 20-year patent to a multinational drug firm and can be made and sold cheaply.

The process has the potential to undermine the monopoly of the big drug companies and bring cheaper drugs not only to poor countries but back to the UK, the report said.

Multinational drug companies put the cost of the research and development of a new drug at $800 million dollars (£408 million).

Professors Shaunak and Brocchini say the cost of theirs will be only a few million pounds. Imperial College will hold the patent on the hepatitis C drug to prevent anybody attempting to block its development. The college employs top patent lawyers who also work for some of the big pharmaceutical companies.

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