16 December 2011

Funding Innovations to Save Women's Lives

Women's Lives
One good news for women worldwide. Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, awarded a grant to PATH, a global health nonprofit, to identify game-changing technologies with potential to save the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth in low-resource settings.

Spearheaded by top scientists from Merck for Mothers and PATH, this unique alliance will evaluate more than 30 promising technologies at various stages of development that address the two leading causes of maternal mortality—postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia—as well as family planning. The partnership, valued at $2.5 million and extending through Fall 2012, will integrate private- and public-sector expertise to help evaluate affordable and easy-to-use maternal health technologies that work in resource-poor settings.

"PATH is excited to collaborate with Merck to make measurable reductions in maternal mortality," said Dr. Michael J. Free, vice president and senior advisor for technologies, PATH. "Combining our capabilities will allow the most effective technologies to enter the market, without the usual barriers that come from the lack of private-sector incentives. This is an opportunity to advance needed technologies and make a great impact on maternal health around the world."

"There are many promising, lifesaving maternal health innovations that, left to current market forces, would not reach the mothers who need them, when they need them, at a price they can afford," said Dr. Naveen Rao, who is leading Merck for Mothers. "By collaborating with PATH, which has deep expertise in developing solutions for the world’s greatest health problems, we will help bring important technologies to countries where women are dying at some of the highest rates. By doing so, we will fulfill a key part of the commitment of Merck for Mothers to advance product development in postpartum hemorrhage, preeclampsia, and family planning toward achieving United Nations' Millennium Development Goal 5."

Merck for Mothers is a new ten-year, half-billion-dollar initiative to create a world where no woman has to die from preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth (merckformothers.com). Drawing on the company's history of discovering innovative, lifesaving medicines and vaccines, Merck for Mothers will apply Merck's scientific and business expertise—as well as its financial resources and experience in taking on tough global health care challenges—to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

As part of its focus, the program will seek to accelerate access to proven solutions; develop game-changing prevention, diagnostic, and treatment technologies; and support public awareness, improved policies, and broader private-sector engagement in the area of maternal health. The collaboration with PATH is a key step in Merck for Mothers' rapid development of game-changing technologies in maternal health, and the company will leverage the learnings to build an investment strategy for accelerating the development of these technologies.

Researchers at Merck's Development Center in Oss, Netherlands, and PATH’s Technology Solutions Global Program in Seattle will work together to advance promising technologies in different stages of development, with an initial goal of identifying three to five maternal health breakthroughs in the next 12 to 18 months. The collaboration will evaluate technologies in the prevention, diagnostic, and treatment areas for the different stages of pregnancy and childbirth and compare them across multiple parameters, such as commercialization potential, user and stakeholder acceptability, and time to impact.

Potential technologies for assessment include:
  • Treatments for the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage to assist women in the third stage of labor.
  • Prenatal preeclampsia screening tool to identify high-risk women and significantly increase survival rates.
  • Effective family planning interventions that are relatively easy to use to encourage higher adherence.