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     FrontPage Edition: Tue 6 July 2004

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Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases opens in Singapore


Novartis announced today (5 Jul 2004) the official opening of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) in Singapore’s new Biopolis research facility.

The Institute is focused on advanced biomedical research for neglected diseases, initially dengue fever and drug resistant tuberculosis (TB). The incidence of both these diseases is accelerating rapidly, particularly in the developing world.

Today, more than one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB and more than two million people die each year. In addition, 2.5 billion people worldwide are at risk from dengue fever.

“Every second someone is newly infected with TB, which has grown to be the third leading cause of death globally for people aged 15-59, while dengue fever infects as many as 50 million people a year, and is endemic in over 100 countries,” said Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis. “The relentless spread across the developing world of these diseases makes the discovery of new treatments critical. We will make a scientific contribution with the NITD, bringing together excellent researchers and world class advisors to help solve these problems.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared drug-resistant TB an urgent health matter, with more than 300,000 new cases per year occurring mainly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Unfortunately, TB has become resistant to most of the antibiotics used today to treat the disease. Currently, more than 79 percent of cases are identified as “super strains” resistant to three of the four current treatments, and there has been little research into new treatment options for many years.

In the case of dengue fever, there has been no major discovery effort directed to new treatments despite significant unmet medical need. According to the WHO, there have been 58,000 new cases of dengue fever in Indonesia alone during 2004, resulting in 650 deaths. Worldwide, there are about 500,000 hospitalizations to treat dengue patients each year.

The NITD is a public-private partnership between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). The Institute’s goals are to have at least two compounds in clinical trials by 2008 and two novel and attractive compounds available to patients by 2013. Novartis intends to make these treatments available without profit for countries where these diseases are endemic.

“The NITD is a unique research institute dedicated to reducing the affliction of tropical diseases through the application of Novartis’ leading edge drug discovery skills,” said Professor Paul Herrling, Chairman of the Board of the NITD, and Head of Corporate Research at Novartis. “The NITD is simultaneously educating young scientists, and helping people in the developing world learn how to continue to address these problems in their own countries. We want this institute to stand as a role model for public-private partnerships in South East Asia.”

The discovery technology available at NITD is state-of-the-art and the scope of its activities ranges from target discovery and screen development, to compound optimization, resulting in potential treatments ready for clinical testing.

The NITD is located in the 2 million square feet Biopolis research complex, an integrated biomedical research hub located in Singapore.

Opened in October 2003, Biopolis boasts state-of-the-art scientific facilities, including nuclear magnetic resonance and DNA sequencing and hosting all of the biomedical research bodies, namely the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI), the Bioinformatics Institute (BII) and the Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

“The Biopolis development underlines Singapore’s commitment to the biomedical sciences. We are confident that the research done by our community of public research institutes and R&D laboratories of biomedical companies will contribute significantly to advancing human healthcare around the world,” said Mr. Philip Yeo, Chairman A*STAR and Co-Chairman, EDB in charge of the EDB Biomedical Sciences Group (EDB BMSG). “Our partnership with Novartis through the establishment of the NITD is one example of how we are moving towards that goal. We are delighted to be part of this important initiative to discover and develop new ways to prevent and treat these life threatening diseases.”

The NITD is directed by Professor Alex Matter who is supported by a strong scientific advisory board. Board members include Nobel Laureate Professor Sidney Brenner of The Salk Institute in California; Nobel Laureate Professor Rolf Zinkernagel, Head of the Institute of Experimental Immunology in Zurich, Switzerland; Professor Barbara Imperiali of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Professor Stefan Kaufmann of the Max-Planck-Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, Germany; and Professor Duane Gubler, Head of the Pacific Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, University of Hawaii Medical School, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The NITD was established in 2002 with support from the EDB Biomedical Sciences Group (EDB BMSG) and was housed temporarily in the Capricorn Research Center in 2003.

The NITD Web site is at 

Source: Novartis Media Release 5 Jul 2004

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