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By Godfrey Olukya   31-3-2013

GSK  today announced a series of new investments in sub-Saharan
Africa designed to address pressing health needs and contribute to
long-term business growth, The Africa press has reported.

Speaking at the 5th EU-Africa Business Forum in Brussels, GSK CEO Sir
Andrew Witty set out the company’s intent to partner with governments
of African countries to help stimulate more research into chronic
diseases, increase capacity by localising medicines supply and
strengthen healthcare infrastructure.

This will see GSK make targeted investments of up to £130 million in
Africa over the next five years, creating at least 500 jobs and
contributing to the development of home-grown capabilities and skills
in Africa. This builds on GSK’s existing business base in sub-Saharan
Africa, which currently employs around 1,500 people in over 40
countries, including at three existing local manufacturing sites in
Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Speaking at the meeting, Andrew Witty said: “Today, we are setting out
further steps to tackle Africa’s dual health burden of infectious and
emerging non-communicable diseases and help build crucial capacity to
underpin the development of the healthcare sector in the region.  We
have a unique opportunity to deliver meaningful social and economic
value to all of the communities we work in – using our scientific
expertise and our global reach to develop innovative medicines and
deliver them to people who need them around the world.

“With global attention focused on how we support development beyond
2015, now is the moment for business to play a more active role in
contributing to a more prosperous future in Africa, investing in
infrastructure, building skills and capability to unlock human
potential and create jobs. Our long-term goal is to equip Africa to
discover, develop and produce the medicines required for Africa.”

GSK will invest £25 million to create the world’s first R&D Open Lab
for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa. This builds on the
success of GSK’s Open Lab in Tres Cantos, Spain which gives
independent researchers access to GSK facilities, resources and
knowledge to help them advance their own research projects into
diseases of the developing world such as malaria, tuberculosis and
leishmaniasis.

The new R&D Open Lab for NCDs in Africa will see GSK scientists
collaborate with research and scientific centres across Africa from
its hub at GSK’s Stevenage R&D facility in the UK to conduct high
quality epidemiological, genetic and interventional research to
increase understanding of NCDs in Africa. An independent governing
board of leading scientists and clinicians will oversee the
implementation of NCD research projects within a dynamic and networked
open innovation environment.

The open lab aims to improve understanding of NCD variations seen in
the Africa setting, which could include for example the apparent
higher prevalence of treatment-resistant hypertension and aggressive
breast cancers in younger women. It is hoped that these insights will
inform prevention and treatment strategies and will enable researchers
across academia and industry to discover and develop new medicines to
address the specific needs of African patients.

The open lab will directly support the training and education of
African scientific researchers who will participate in a portfolio of
projects, building local expertise, creating a new generation of
African NCD experts while instilling a deep vein of ‘African thinking’
within GSK’s own R&D organisation.

Over the next five years, GSK will look to partner with a number of
African countries to develop domestic manufacturing capacity and
capability. This will see GSK invest up to £100m to expand its
existing manufacturing capability in Nigeria and Kenya and build up to
five new factories in Africa. The company is currently reviewing
possible locations in countries including Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia
and the selected sites will be announced in due course and subject to
Government agreement.

The new facilities will be built to globally recognised good
manufacturing practice (GMP) standards and will make locally relevant
products such as antibiotics and respiratory and HIV medicines (on
behalf of ViiV Healthcare). The initial focus will be on secondary
manufacture with the aim to transfer the technology, skills and
knowledge needed to enable the local manufacture of more complex
products over time. The factories will create a network of localised
industry and local employment for a highly skilled workforce drawn
from surrounding communities.

To support the scale-up of domestic manufacturing and supply, GSK will
establish up to 25 academic Chairs at local African universities in
related areas such as pharmaceutical sciences, public health,
engineering and logistics. These roles will facilitate the development
of new courses as well as internships and student exchanges, and will
be pivotal to ensuring manufacturing capability is locked into the
continent to help attract further manufacturing investment.

GSK is also taking steps to improve and simplify its supply chain with
the creation of regional supply hubs that will help to reduce stock
shortages and local supply partnerships to enable more GSK products
and medicines to reach under-served rural communities in Africa. These
steps will help reduce Africa’s reliance on imported medicines,
improving the security of supply and reducing production costs and
transportation which in time should help contribute to lower prices.

GSK will also increase its support for community health worker
training, in recognition of the vital role they play in delivering
basic healthcare to many communities. As part of its initiative to
reinvest 20% of any profits generated in LDCs back into strengthening
healthcare infrastructure in those countries, GSK is already
supporting the training of 15,000 healthcare workers with its NGO
partners by the end of 2014.

These changes build on steps taken by GSK over the past six years to
modernise its business model and help improve access to medicines in
developing countries. This has seen the company cap the prices of its
patented medicines at no more than 25% of developed world prices and
reinvest 20% of any profit made back into training healthcare workers
in the world’s poorest countries and pursue open innovation models for
diseases of the developing world.

END

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