Japan funding efforts to develop drugs for developing countries’ illnesses

JIJI

The health ministry is pouring money into an effort to develop drugs to treat diseases prevalent mainly in developing countries, including maladies in Latin America and Africa, ministry officials said Monday.

Panels made up of members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, have cleared the way for the ministry to seek ¥700 million under a supplementary budget for fiscal 2012, the officials said.

To accelerate research and development of such drugs, the ministry plans to set up a ¥14 billion fund in five years by soliciting ¥700 million each from the Foreign Ministry, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several Japanese drugmakers, including Eisai Co.

One of the so-called neglected tropical illnesses is Chagas’ disease, an insect-borne disorder that damages the heart and nervous system and afflicts many in Latin America. But a lack of demand in developing countries has hindered the development of drugs to treat it, the officials said.

If Japanese firms succeed in creating new drugs for developing countries ahead of their U.S. and European rivals, they may be able to cultivate new markets, they said, adding the project could create jobs in Japan’s pharmaceutical industry.