Merck Collaboration with University of Buea, Cameroon

Partnership objectives

This collaboration aims to repurpose compounds from the Merck library to develop a treatment for onchocerciasis (also known as river blindness).

Onchocerciasis afflicts 37 million people in poor tropical countries. Onchocerciasis afflicts 37 million people in poor tropical countries. Copyright Merck

What are the health needs and challenges?

  • Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, afflicts 37 million people in poor tropical countries.
  • Despite being the second leading infectious cause of blindness globally, there is yet to be a cure (a macrofilaricide) for the disease.
  • A macrofilaricide, especially one that does not kill Loa loa, to avoid serious adverse events, is a critical unmet need.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

This collaboration is addressing access and intellectual property barriers between collaborating partners in the Global North and Global South to accelerate early discovery for infectious diseases.

Through this collaboration, Merck is supporting local capacity-building for R&D among developing countries in the Global South. By sharing knowledge and intellectual property, the collaboration demonstrates how intellectual property can be activated to be a promoter of access rather than a barrier.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

The collaboration between Merck and the University of Buea was facilitated by WIPO Re:Search, Geneva, Switzerland, an open innovation platform, sponsored by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), to accelerate early discovery for infectious diseases through the sharing of knowledge and intellectual property (IP). 

This collaboration was awarded the Wellcome Trust Pathfinder Award, which fund pilot projects that address an unmet medical need or offer a new solution to a problem.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Merck

Partner(s) University of Buea, Wellcome Trust, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, IGOs, NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Onchocerciasis (River Blindness)

Program Type(s) Research & Development - Development of Treatments

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) Cameroon

Research Country(ies) Cameroon

Start Date 2015

More information Merck Initiatives Wellcome Trust

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« The voices of the poor patients in the endemic regions are finally beginning to be heard. This initiative for health product creation is a veritable messiah to the problem of infectious diseases. »

Dr. Fidelis Cho-Ngwa, University of Buea