PATH acquires drug company to speed fight on neglected diseases

Seattle-based PATH announced today that it is acquiring the non-profit drug company OneWorld Health.

OneWorld Health, which will continue to operate from its headquarters in San Francisco, was created in 2000 as the first non-profit pharmaceutical company and has been focused from the beginning on creating drugs and vaccines for use in poor countries.

“I don’t think we could have considered trying to partner with a for-profit drug company,” said Hugh Chang, head of special projects at PATH who will act as interim chief of drug development for the PATH-OneWorld Health merger. “That would have been a misalignment in terms of our missions.”

PATH, launched in the late 1970s in Seattle initially focused on women’s health issues, has grown into one of the largest players in the global health arena — due largely to its key role administering and carrying out many well-funded projects sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Known for its talent at bringing together public and private partners in innovative ways to solve health problems in poor countries, this is the first time PATH will have a direct role in developing drugs.

In the past, PATH has had to spend a lot of time and effort working to convince drug makers to join in the fight against neglected diseases. Now it is a drug maker.

“PATH is excited to welcome OneWorld Health into our organizational family,” said Dr. Christopher J. Elias, president and CEO of PATH. “OneWorld Health has a successful track record in developing and delivering effective, affordable drugs to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Their work complements PATH’s broad portfolio of projects focused on delivering high-impact, low-cost solutions to global health problems.”

Chang said PATH and OneWorld Health began exploring the idea of merging a year ago. PATH was interested in considering this, he said, based on the assumption that the partnership of the two non-profits focused on developing world health issues would accelerate drug discovery and development for neglected diseases.

OneWorldHealth has already had success in developing a number of drugs aimed at neglected disease such as visceral leishmaniasis (aka Kala-azar), cholera and diarrheal diseases as well as a $10 million Gates-funded research effort aimed at developing synthetic artemisinin for malaria.

Dr. Richard Chin, CEO of OWH, stated, “We are delighted that two organizations that have a similar deep commitment to people in developing countries will join together. The complementary skills of PATH and OneWorld Health will lead to a fully integrated product development and delivery platform across both drugs and vaccines, improved economies of scale, and most importantly, superior ability to save lives.”

OneWorld Health has offices and research facilities in India, where PATH has also a strong presence in developing and distributing therapies for neglected diseases.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.