BMS Foundation Awards US$3.5 Million In Hepatitis Grants

Bristol-Myers Squibb has awarded US$3.5 million in grants to tackle the ‘silent epidemic’ of hepatitis in India and China.

AsianScientist (Feb. 2, 2015) – The Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation has in the past month awarded nine new multi-year grants for more than US$3.5 million to strengthen efforts against hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in India and China, which constitute the most vulnerable populations worldwide.

The grants were made through the Foundation’s Delivering Hope initiative, an independent philanthropic wing of BMS to prevent hepatitis in Asia. These align with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call for action against the global hepatitis threat with comprehensive strategies for awareness, prevention and treatment. Last year, Delivering Hope established three Centers of Excellence, one in China and two in India, that are focusing on just these goals.

An urgent public health issue, hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. The WHO estimates that hepatitis B and C affect over 500 million people worldwide. Viral hepatitis is often referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because most people do not realize that they are infected and, over decades, progress to severe liver diseases. This underscores the urgent need for universal access to immunization, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy.

It is estimated that greater than 123 million people are infected with chronic hepatitis B and about 60 million with hepatitis C in China and India alone. Community and general awareness is considerably low, despite progress in introducing national policies to control the spread of HBV and HCV. When left untreated, viral hepatitis infections result in liver failure and chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver and hepatocellular carcinoma, creating a significant burden on families and society. The highest mortality rate, 70 percent, is in the Asia-Pacific, with an annual death rate that is three times as high as HIV/AIDS and nine times as high as malaria.

Speaking about Delivering Hope’s drive against hepatitis, Mr. John Damoti, president of the Foundation, said, “Delivering Hope continues to increase its focus on HBV and HCV in China and India, the two countries that have the highest incidence of viral hepatitis worldwide.”

“Working with the Foundation’s Centers of Excellence in these countries, our grantees are using successful evidence-based practices to support the WHO’s efforts at raising awareness and prevention of viral hepatitis among the most vulnerable and high-risk populations, training the health care professionals who care for these patients and increasing vaccinations and testing, all of which continue to build health care capacity and support strong community models for hepatitis prevention and control.”

In China, grants were awarded to the Peking University Education Foundation to provide a virtual community support system for chronic hepatitis patients and enhance capacity of rural health care workers; to the Hepatitis B Foundation working with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a program to empower rural patients to become actively involved in their disease management and provide training for rural doctors; to the Wu Jieping Medical Foundation which will conduct a study of the present status of HCV treatment and factors influencing it; and to the Inno Community Development Organization to raise awareness among migrant workers and establish 10 community-based Hepatitis C Intervention Centers for the migrant population in Guangdong Province.

Additionally, in India, grants were awarded to All India Institute of Diabetes and Research for a pilot program in Gujrat to expand HBV testing in regions of HBV outbreaks; to MAMTA for health care providers to receive training in HBV and HCV risk assessment, disease prevention and risk management; to the United Way of Mumbai to prevent disease through medical interventions and extensive community education in major slum areas; and to SAMARTH for proper self- monitoring and evaluation to ensure that program goals are achieved and to identify potential gaps.

Lastly, the World Hepatitis Alliance also received a grant to develop a new model of patient group creation aimed at physicians who treat viral hepatitis and also focused on the importance of advocacy to promote viral hepatitis awareness and prevention. The project will include China and India, but is also globally aimed.

Delivering Hope has initiated more than six patient empowerment projects in China and India, reaching more than 6,000 patients.


Source: Bristol-Myers Squibb; Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Charu Chaudhry is a Research Investigator at Bristol Myers Squibb USA in the Mechanistic Biochemistry, Lead Discovery and Optimization group . She has a PhD in Biophysics from Yale University and a BSc in Chemistry from MIT. She has a long-standing interest in understanding how proteins operate as molecular machines to perform essential functions in cells. Her current research focus is in biophysics and enzymology to support drug discovery across diverse therapeutic areas including immuno-oncology and fibrosis.

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