LONDON (Reuters) - Five top Japanese drug companies are to open their "libraries" of experimental compounds to scrutiny by scientists hunting new treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases affecting the world's poor.
The initiative, announced on Thursday, is the first project under a new $100 million partnership between the drugmakers, the Japanese government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund research into neglected tropical diseases.
The venture marks a change of tack by Japanese pharmaceutical firms, which have been slower than their Western counterparts to invest in emerging markets and address the problem of developing medicines for poor countries.
That is starting to change, with companies like Daiichi Sankyo and Takeda Pharmaceutical having made important acquisitions in emerging markets in recent years.
The new Global Health Innovative Technology Fund said the inaugural project would finance work by three non-profit groups that will search for new drug candidates in compound libraries maintained by Japanese drugmakers and research institutes.
The Japanese companies involved in the project are Astellas Pharma, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Shionogi and Takeda Pharmaceutical.
Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Cowell