GSK’s Andrew Witty on the Future of Pharma Collaboration to Help Poor Countries

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just before the all-singing, all-dancing launch of the big initiative to control or eliminate 10 neglected diseases – starring 13 CEOs from Big Pharma, the WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, and Bill Gates – I grabbed a few words with Sir Andrew Witty, head of GlaxoSmithKline, who co-chaired the negotiations over the past year with Gates.

I was keen to know who was responsible for getting 13 CEOs, or as someone described it to me, 13 huge egos, together round the table. Was it Gates? Was it Chan? Was it Witty? Diplomatically, everybody said it was a combination of all of them. So I asked Witty to expand on this new spirit of collaboration among billion-dollar companies that used to fight tooth and nail.

Here, in his own words, without further comment from me, is what he said:

We basically decided a little over a year ago that the NTDs [neglected tropical diseases] was an area where we could make some impact, get some traction.

The WHO 2020 goals gave us a focus to put some hard expectations in place: which diseases, by when? How are we going to get this done?

I’ve been delighted at the energy we’ve found in the other companies. It’s great to make individual progress, but if we could just get the broader front to move then something much bigger could be achieved and this is it, I think.

The biggest achievement over the last year, I think, has been to get some of the companies to really massively increase their commitments, so that everybody is kind of at this at an industrial level, and I hope that what everybody is going to see today is an industry at its best, actually.

We saw with that with the intellectual property … We’ve now seen 13 companies signed up to Wipo [World intellectual Property Organisation] with something which has built a model around the GSK patent pool, and we’ve signed up ourselves to that. So actually here we are, two and a half years later, where pretty much all the IP [intellectual property], all the analagous IP to the kind of things we were offering up a couple of years ago, is now available or will be available through Wipo. So I think you are beginning to see a shift in the industry. I think this won’t be the end of it.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

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