2 March 2015

Cooperation between Utrecht University and WHO for affordable medicines in developing countries

Utrecht University (The Netherlands) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) will work together to make affordable patent-free medicines possible in developing countries. To this end, both organisations signed an agreement on 2 March in which the university makes knowledge available under strict conditions for the production of such medicines. The WHO approached Utrecht University partly as a result of the leading knowledge position of the university in this area. “This special agreement fits perfectly with the social aspirations of our university, said Marjan Oudeman, President of the Executive Board of Utrecht University. “The first medication is a drug for a serious respiratory infection that occurs in premature infants. With it we contribute to resolving a major global health problem.”

On behalf of the WHO Kees de Joncheere, Director of Essential Medicines and Pharmaceuticals Policies, signed the agreement. Hugo Sigman was also present at the signature as a representative of the industrial partners. Sigman is founder and CEO of Chemo, developer and manufacturer of medicines.

First medication

Utrecht University has established the Utrecht Centre of Excellence for Affordable Biotherapeutics Foundation (UCAB) which facilitates the development, production and distribution of high quality and affordable medicines in developing countries. One of the tasks is the transfer of technology to private parties who produce the medicines under the auspices of the WHO. The first medicine that UCAB is focusing on is palivizumab, a drug for a serious respiratory infection (RS virus) that primarily affects premature infants. UCAB will be located at the Utrecht Science Park.

High quality affordable biosimilars

In the early nineties, a new type of medication was developed (biologicals) to address a variety of diseases, including cancer and autoimmune diseases. The patent is now running out on a number of medications, which offers opportunities to develop their cheaper versions (biosimilars). Local manufacturers are involved in the production of biosimilars in many countries, but unfortunately these are often still too expensive and sometimes of dubious quality. UCAB wants to coordinate the development of biosimilars according to the highest possible quality standard. Due to the fact that local manufacturers share the development costs, prices can be kept low. They therefore do not have carry out the costly clinical trials individually. UCAB will also transfer technical knowledge to the local regulatory authorities and manufacturers through training courses.

This project ties in closely with the strategic research theme Life Sciences of Utrecht University.

More information

Website WHO