Preceding the presentation of the 2009 Prix Galien USA prizes, last Tuesday, a round table discussion was conducted at the American Museum of Natural History on the subject of how public and private collaboration can increase innovation and contribute to saving lives around the world. The talk included Leonard Bell of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Barry Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health, Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute, and Nobel laureate Walter Gilbert.
The Prix Galien USA committee was inaugurated in 2007 as the industry’s equivalent of a Nobel Prize. The award honors innovation by organizations and researchers developing drugs and therapy for worldwide use. The Pro Bono Humanum award is also given to a person or group that has improved the worldwide human condition through the use of pharmaceutical science. 2009 winners include Novartis, Amgen, and GlaxoSmithKline.
Bell opened the talk, discussing the lessons learned by Alexion during the development of Soliris, a groundbreaking drug that combats rare blood disease PNH. He found that innovation took place as a result of a well-designed long-term development process with public support, allowing the company to distribute the drug free of charge to the uninsured.
Sachs spoke next, discussing the difficulties developing economies face from the burden of disease. “We should not be leaving 8.8 million children to die each year,” he said of the developed world’s lack of support to public health in Africa. He continued to posit that if ten cents out of every hundred dollars made in the developed world were donated to support Africa, those 8.8 million deaths could be prevented.
Bloom followed by voicing his concern that rich countries have not solved the problem of social responsibility. Without rewarding researchers for investigating diseases that may not ensure a big payday at the of the development cycle, he said, true progress against disease cannot be made on a global level.