UNITAID gives new grant to FIND and WHO

Geneva, Switzerland – 15 April 2013 – UNITAID, an innovative global health initiative that increases access to affordable medicines and diagnostic tests for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, has awarded the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the World Health Organization (WHO) US$ 9.4 million over five years to further expand access to quality control of malaria rapid diagnostic tests. This UNITAID-funded project will support countries to develop their own quality control testing programmes by transferring capacity to country health programmes, thus removing dependence on external laboratories and ensuring that quality control processes are more widely available. Global product testing, on which a majority of all public sector procurement is based, will incorporate new methods with reduced costs borne predominantly by manufacturers, thus removing reliance on long-term donor support. This project will establish a model for ensuring sustainable quality control for point-of-care diagnostics in low-resource settings and could be applicable to an increasing number of other diseases as innovation in diagnostic development continues.

Due to advances in malaria prevention and control, malaria management has become ever more dependent on accurate diagnosis, since many cases of fever turn out to be caused by something other than malaria. It is very important that malaria medicines are used only to treat confirmed malaria cases, as they are not targeted for the treatment of other causes of fever, and treatment of non-malaria fevers with malaria medicines may delay patients being treated properly for other illnesses. Confirmation of malaria before treatment is now, in fact, the global policy recommended by the WHO. Simple, rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that can detect the presence of small quantities of malaria parasite proteins in a drop of finger-prick blood are recommended for use by the WHO.

Since patient safety and effective management of patients with fever depend on the use of accurate and reliable RDTs, quality control (QC) programmes are vital to ensure that only high-quality tests are used. If current gains in malaria control are to be maintained and expanded, QC will play a fundamental role in disease management, control and elimination.

“Ensuring accurate and safe diagnosis is critical to the implementation of the WHO recommendations on malaria management,” says Dr David Bell, Head of FIND’s malaria programme. “Their policy of parasite-based diagnosis is changing the face of fever control across much of the globe. UNITAID’s generous support of this process will have a huge impact on guaranteeing its success.”

Quality control processes must not only be accessible, they must also be sustainable. Procedures to assess and monitor the quality of malaria RDTs are essential to ensure that the tests are safe and provide accurate results, thereby assuring that the global policy can achieve what it has set out to do – save lives, and control and eliminate malaria.

“We are grateful to UNITAID for their farsightedness in supporting this critical step in malaria control and elimination,” says Dr Robert Newman, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “Diagnostic tests are part of the multi-pronged attack on this deadly disease and our joint project with FIND aims to sustainably build the capacity of national malaria control programmes to assure the quality of these essential tools.”

Primary project partners: WHO/GMP, US CDC, HTD (Hospital for Tropical Diseases, London), RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Manila), IPC (Institut Pasteur du Cambodge) and CNM (National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

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About Malaria
Malaria is a potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease. It has one of the highest mortality rates of any infectious illness. Its main victims are children under five years of age. The World Malaria Report 2012 compiled data from 104 malaria-endemic countries and territories for 2011. Ninety-nine of these countries had on-going malaria transmission. In 2010 alone there were about 219 million cases of malaria resulting in an estimated 660,000 deaths. Although malaria is curable, without timely and effective diagnosis and treatment, it is often fatal, especially in young children.

About FIND
The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics is dedicated to developing affordable, easy-to-use and cutting edge diagnostic tests that save lives in the poorest areas of the world. From proof of principle to putting new tests into practice, the organization works with multiple and diverse groups, from academia, industry, donors, partners in the field, Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization. With new diagnostics for malaria, TB and sleeping sickness already in use, FIND is also working on other neglected diseases, such as Chagas disease and leishmaniasis and other causes of acute fever. Launched in 2003, the not-for-profit Foundation is ISO certified and financed by both the private and public sectors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Government of the Netherlands, the European Union, UNITAID, UK Department for International Development, National Institutes of Health (USA), UBS Optimus Foundation and others.

About WHO
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.

About UNITAID
UNITAID is a global health initiative launched in 2006 by the Governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom to provide sustainable funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. About 70% of UNITAID’s funds come from a small levy on airline tickets. Through implementers, UNITAID finances the purchase of quality-assured medicines and diagnostics for patients in poor countries, using its market power to expand supply, promote the development of new and better products, cut delivery lead times and reduce prices. For more info: www.unitaid.eu