SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The high burden of breast cancer in women of African heritage, an issue long under-recognized by the medical community, governments, and drug companies, will be highlighted at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention at the San Diego Convention Center on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Renowned breast cancer expert Dr. Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Olopade, Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago , will speak on the dramatic differences in disease biology and outcomes in African vs. Caucasian women during panel sessions at 10:30 am in Room 28AB and 3:00 pm in Room 27AB.
BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) is presenting both panel sessions as part of the launch of its African Access Initiative (AAI), which will improve oncology care in select African countries through partnerships of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, African governments, leading oncologists and researchers, and non-profits. Cancer now kills 60% more Africans than malaria, and regional healthcare systems are struggling under the weight of this burgeoning cancer crisis. “In Africa, cancer is nearly always fatal, and patients and their families have little or no hope that they will overcome the disease and be healthy again,” stated Dr. Olopade.
Breast cancer, the most common malignancy among African women, will be a major focus of AAI. A native of Nigeria, Dr. Olopade has dedicated her career to unraveling breast cancer biology in women of African descent. Her pioneering research, published in leading scientific journals, has shown that the disease “hits earlier and harder” in Africa than among Caucasian women in the United States. African women are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age and tend to have more aggressive tumors that lack the hormone receptors targeted by many breast cancer drugs. Consequently, these women have specific treatment needs and poorer outcomes.
AAI will help address these priorities by building the capacity and infrastructure needed to support further research on Africa’s cancer landscape and clinical trials of existing and new treatments. AAI partners will also establish innovative business agreements to provide sustainable access to oncology medicines and technologies.
In concert with the AAI launch at BIO, BVGH will also release a White paper on the African cancer crisis, co-authored by Dr. Olopade and other leading oncologists, and host the third annual Africa Pavilion to showcase African R&D innovations and foster partnerships.
The rollout of AAI represents a new direction for BVGH. “BVGH has led key programs in infectious diseases—such as the United Nations’ WIPO Re:Search program—and is now expanding its attention toward engaging industry in efforts to ensure that patients in low- and middle-income countries have access to proper healthcare for non-communicable diseases, starting with cancer,” noted BVGH President Jennifer Dent.
Dr. Olopade and Dr. Pol Vandenbroucke, Vice President of Medical Strategy at Pfizer, will join BVGH’s Board of Directors to strengthen its expertise in oncology and healthcare delivery in Africa.
“I am very pleased to welcome these two remarkable individuals to the BVGH Board of Directors,” said Jim Greenwood, BVGH Board Chair and BIO President and CEO. “Both Dr. Olopade and Dr. Vandenbroucke bring with them a strong commitment to improving access to innovative medicines in Africa and specialized understanding of healthcare delivery on the continent.”
Greenwood added, “Dr. Olopade is a groundbreaking cancer researcher with a robust network of oncologists in Nigeria and close ties to the Nigerian Minister of Health. Dr. Vandenbroucke has led the development of new medicines for infectious diseases prevalent in developing nations, and we are thrilled that he will contribute his own expertise and help bring industry attention to the growing public health threat of cancer in Africa.”
About BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH)
BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) is a non-profit organization working at the crossroads of the private and public sectors to advance research and improve health. BVGH connects people, resources, and ideas across biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, governments, and non-profits to solve global health issues. For more information about BVGH, please visit http://www.bvgh.org/.
About University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. Our commitment to free and open inquiry draws inspired scholars to our global campuses, where ideas are born that challenge and change the world. UChicago research has led to such breakthroughs as discovering the link between cancer and genetics, establishing revolutionary theories of economics, and developing tools to produce reliably excellent urban schooling. In all we do, we are driven to dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions—and to leverage our knowledge to enrich all human life.
At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products. Our global portfolio includes medicines and vaccines, as well as many of the world's best-known consumer health care products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on us.