British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is to make thousands of chemical compounds that have the potential to cure malaria available for research, a newspaper has reported.
Andrew Witty, GSK chief executive, told the Guardian newspaper that multinational drug companies must balance social responsibility with their need to make profits to please shareholders.
Firms had "an imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them," he said.
The company will publish details of 13 500 chemical compounds from its library that have the potential to act against the parasite that causes deadly malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, the Guardian said.
13 500 new opportunities to start research
In a major speech in New York, Witty will also announce an eight-million-dollar (4.9-million-pound, 5.6-million-euro) fund to pay for scientists to investigate the chemicals, according to the paper.
"I think it is a significant contribution to give scientists around the world 13 500 new opportunities to start research," Witty said. "It is trying to create a permissiveness around scientific research in an area where we know the marketplace isn't going to stimulate massive research," he added.
The drug company chief said it was an opportunity to get thousands of researchers involved in the fight against malaria. It is a development on a speech almost a year ago by Witty, when he vowed to put all drugs for neglected diseases in a so-called "patent pool", waiving intellectual property rights so any
researcher could examine them, the Guardian reported.
Aid groups Oxfam and Medecins sans Frontieres gave the announcement a cautious welcome. - (Sapa, January 2010)