Current Events Pharmaceuticals

Genius: A non-profit drug company wins a MacArthur Foundation Award

The so-called genius awards (actually called the MacArthur Foundation fellows) are given to 25 individuals based on “their creativity, originality, and potential to be significant contributors in their fields.”  Recipients receive $500,000 over five years with no strings attached.  One of the recipients which interests this blog is Victoria Hale (bio).  She is a pharmaceutical entrepreneur who started a non-profit drug company to treat third world diseases.  NPR’s Marketplace ran an interview with Ms. Hale yesterday and below is an excerpt:

Hale: We have been funded very generously by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to date. And how will we keep it going is the question. We have a challenge because of the budget size of our Research and Development program. So we have a couple of different approaches. One is to continue with philanthropy, revenues on products that are sold in private markets in the developing world, or to travelers in the West, let’s say for diarrhea or malaria. And we also are speaking with financial advisers, friends and colleagues about some creative ways to fund a nonprofit organization.

Ryssdal: What has the reaction of the more-established pharmaceutical industry been to your work? 

Hale: Early on, if we go back to the year 2000, we heard concepts and phrases like, “What is this about? What are you trying to do? And what markets are you going after? And how can you develop drugs with few people and with philanthropy? We don’t understand.” Then slowly, over time, as we began to do our work, and as the word spread that there really needs to be another organization, another set of organizations that address diseases of people who are at the bottom of the pyramid, slowly we’ve become quite accepted and are currently negotiating partnerships with a large number of large pharmaceutical companies.

Ms. Hale’s company–named the Institute for OneWorld Health–has worked primarily in India to date.  If you would like more information on her company or have an inclination to donate to their organization, visit the OneWorld Health website.