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PAHEF Announces $1.2+ Million Grant from Sanofi Pasteur

Funds to be used for surveillance of meningococcal disease in Latin America and the Caribbean Region

Washington, D.C, March 12, 2009—The Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF), a not-for-profit organization in the United States, has announced the receipt of a $1,236,672 million grant from sanofi pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group. The purpose of the restricted grant is to reinforce surveillance and knowledge—based on laboratory evidence—of meningococcal disease in Latin America and the Caribbean Region over the next three years.

Mr. Edward L. Kadunc, PAHEF’s Executive Director, says, “We and our implementing partner, the Pan American Health Organization, welcome this grant to also establish a coordinator laboratory in Argentina from which researchers will carry out studies in Latin America and the Caribbean Region, including serotype determinations and antibiotic susceptibility testing, in order to provide information for vaccine schemes’ formulations against meningococcal disease.”

Sanofi pasteur--based in Lyon, France--manufactures several meningococcal vaccines, including a meningococcal A+C vaccine in France that is used in several countries around the world, including Africa, where meningitis is often times endemic. In the U.S., it manufactures Menomune vaccine, a polysaccharide vaccine designed to prevent four serogroups of meningococcal disease—A/C/Y/W-135, which is also used in many different countries. The most recent in the meninge product line is a conjugate vaccine to protect against the same four serogroups, Menactra vaccine, which is licensed in the United States and Canada for individuals between 11 and 55 years of age.

Sanofi pasteur’s commitment to preventing meningococcal disease in Latin America began in 1975 when the vaccine developer and manufacturer worked with the Brazilian Ministry of Health to provide vaccine to control an epidemic of meningococcal meningitis. “Improving knowledge and understanding of the epidemiology of this devastating disease is deeply rooted in our company's history and developing vaccines for its prevention remains one of our main priorities,” explained Erwan Muros-Le Rouzic, sanofi pasteur’s epidemiologist for meningococcal disease.
“This partnership represents a unique opportunity to improve our knowledge of this disease in the Latin America region, evaluate its impact on the population, and monitor changes in the epidemiology over time or differences between countries within the region,” said Muros-Le Rouzic. “The information that will be obtained is essential for defining the best public health actions, including the use of vaccines adapted to the situation in the Latin American region.”
The specific objectives of the research program funded by sanofi pasteur in Latin American and the Caribbean will include the reinforcement of the surveillance and knowledge of the meningococcal disease burden, strains characterization, antimicrobial susceptibility testing patterns, and antibiotic treatment.

Mr. Kadunc notes, “In a study published in a recent issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health of data from 19 Latin American and four Caribbean countries shows meningitis was the most common manifestation of meningococcal infection followed by sepsis, both of which often leads to death. Mr. Kadunc emphasizes, “Given this high-level of N. meningitidis in the region, this grant to strengthen research and understanding of meningococcal disease in Latin America and the Caribbean Region is timely.”

The research program will allow for the creation of a database, including meningococcal cases over the entire region with both epidemiological and also laboratory data. The database will facilitate the capture of a representative collection of isolates causing disease in the region. Panels of representative biological material are one of the most important tools in the development and application of new vaccines and represent a fundamental aid in decision-making for public-health interventions.

The Foundation is an independent philanthropic organization working to build public health expertise to be able to innovatively lead development of healthier generations of people in the Americas by partnering with the private sector; major public health research, policy, and development groups; and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), an international public health agency that also acts as the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO). As an independent organization, PAHEF supports the Pan American Health Organization’s vision of health for all.

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