This profile was prepared when Victoria Hale was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Working for the Food and Drug Administration in the early 1990s, Victoria Hale saw many promising new medicines abandoned or not developed to their full market potential. In 2000, Victoria—a pharmaceutical scientist and a veteran of both the FDA and the biotechnology industry—created a non-profit pharmaceutical company to bridge the gap between neglected infectious diseases and pharmaceutical science. By repurposing existing drug research, conducting clinical trials overseas and building innovative partnerships with big pharmaceutical companies, in-country drug manufacturers and local distribution and delivery partners, OneWorld Health seeks to bring much needed drugs to market for a fraction of the usual cost. Diseases such as visceral leishmaniasis (VL), or kala-azar in Hindi, long ignored and fatal if left untreated requires special and urgent attention. It’s a largely forgotten disease and is often referred to as a disease of poverty since it affects only the poorest of the rural poor. Ironically, this so-called neglected disease afflicts almost 500,000 people around the world annually, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and parts of Africa and Latin America and is the second most deadly parasitic disease in the world following malaria. On September 8, 2006, OneWorld Health publicly announced the approval by the Indian regulatory authorities of its first drug, Paromomycin IM Injection, as a new, affordable and effective cure for visceral leishmaniasis. The company hopes to introduce the medicine as an additional public health tool in the Indian government’s existing disease control program and eventually extend application of the drug to other geographies, including disease control programs in other visceral leishmaniasis endemic countries in South Asia, parts of Africa and Latin America. With the approval of paromomycin, OneWorld Health seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to develop new medicines for neglected diseases of poverty using an entrepreneurial, nonprofit model. The OneWorld Health non-profit pharmaceutical model brings together experienced and dedicated teams of pharmaceutical scientists, identifies the most promising drug candidates and develops them into safe, effective and affordable medicines through extensive clinical trials. Working with local distribution and delivery partners in India, OneWorld Health is now looking to tackle the last major obstacle—access—to getting much needed drugs to those afflicted by visceral leishmaniasis.In addition to visceral leishmaniasis, OneWorld Health is tackling two other diseases in its drug development portfolio. With malaria, the organization is partnering with a local biotechnology company to develop microbially derived artemisinin, an affordable, sustainable second source of antimalarials for ACTs. If successful, microbially derived artemisinin could reduce the cost of malaria drugs by ten fold. OneWorld Health’s newest effort focuses on identifying a portfolio of antisecretory candidates that could mitigate the dehydration of cholera and secretory diarrhea.