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DRUG DISCOVERY PLATFORM FOR MALARIA

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  • Private sector and academic center in Africa join forces in the fight against infectious diseases
  • Research collaboration leverages competencies and expertise in alignment with Merck’s commitment to improve access to medicines for underserved populations

Darmstadt, Germany, November 19, 2017 – Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that a research agreement has been signed with the University of Cape Town (UCT) South Africa to co-develop a new R&D platform aimed at identifying new lead programs for potential treatments against malaria, with the potential to expand it to other tropical diseases.

Combining Merck’s R&D expertise and the drug discovery capabilities of the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, the collaboration will conduct drug discovery research with the goal of developing anti-malarial drug candidates using Merck’s compound library.

“This strategic collaboration shows the significant commitment of Merck to provide access to medicines for underserved populations, while creating a potential long-term alliance for generating new drugs to treat infectious diseases,” said Beatrice Greco, Head of Malaria and Diagnostics – Global Health R&D, within the biopharmaceutical business of Merck. “UCT’s H3D is a centre of excellence for research and innovation with an already strong track record in malaria drug discovery—we are honoured to be entering into a collaboration with this renowned institution.”

Merck has a dedicated Global Health R&D group working to address key unmet medical needs related to infectious diseases, such as schistosomiasis and malaria, with a focus on pediatric populations in developing countries. Its approach is based on public-private partnerships and collaborations with leading global health institutions and organizations in both developed and developing countries.

“The vision of H3D is to be the leading organisation for integrated drug discovery and development on the African continent. Working with partners like Merck is critical to build up a comprehensive pipeline to tackle malaria and related infectious diseases,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, Director of the H3D centre. “We look forward to working with the Merck team to set up a solid drug discovery platform, with an initial focus on malaria.”

Merck, within the scope of its responsible corporate governance, is committed to improving access to health for underserved populations in low-and middle-income countries. Health, along with environment and culture, represent Merck’s strategic spheres of activities that are part of the company’s Corporate Responsibility Strategy.

Merck has delivered healthcare services in Africa since 1897. With a population rising faster than in any other global market and a growing middle class, the company is increasingly tapping into the continent’s innovative spirit to create health awareness and help respond to unmet medical needs. The Group’s Executive Board is visiting 10 African countries this week to underscore its commitment and the rising importance of the continent. Among other activities, Merck seeks to start local production of the diabetes treatment Glucophage in Algeria, inaugurate an office in Nigeria and start the sale of its Muse cell analyzer to detect HIV.

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About the University of Cape Town’s H3D

H3D was founded in 2010 at UCT, the oldest university in South Africa and consistently highest-ranked African university. H3D officially opened its doors in April 2011, with the goal of creating the leading drug discovery and development platform in Africa. H3D is Africa’s first modern fully integrated drug discovery centre and the only one of its kind on the continent. The vision of H3D is to deliver clinical candidates for communicable and non-communicable diseases where there is an unmet medical need. In 2012 the first compound discovered by H3D in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) was approved by MMV as a preclinical anti-malarial development candidate and has completed Phase I human trials. Under the directorship of Professor Kelly Chibale, the group has been active in malaria and tuberculosis drug discovery for the last four years and is now expanding into other therapeutic areas such as helminths (parasitic worms), cardiovascular disease and fibrosis. It currently comprises 50 scientific staff members in the areas of medicinal chemistry, biology as well as Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics. H3D has state-of-the-art laboratories and has the necessary infrastructure to conduct integrated drug discovery projects to deliver clinical candidates.

About Merck

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 40,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2014, Merck generated sales of € 11.3 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, EMD Millipore and EMD Performance Materials.

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