Industry News: PerkinElmer and Novartis announce collaboration to combat sickle cell disease in Africa

20 Jun 2022


PerkinElmer Inc. has announced that it is collaborating with Novartis to expand newborn screening for sickle cell disease (SCD) in sub-Saharan Africa. PerkinElmer together with the Novartis Africa Sickle Cell Disease program aims to expand advocacy efforts to educate patients, caregivers, and communities about the importance of newborn screening and early intervention with hydroxyurea (HU) and other SCD treatments.

Newborn screening for SCD and comprehensive disease management in high-income countries like the United States has reduced mortality in children under five years old by 94%[1]. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa which bears the highest burden of the disease, no national newborn screening program exists. This collaboration aims to galvanize governments to provide universal newborn screening as part of national health programs in support of early diagnosis and comprehensive interventions such as prophylactic penicillin, a pneumococcal vaccination and therapies like HU. With effective screening and management of SCD, governments could save many precious lives.

The Novartis Africa Sickle Cell Disease program was launched in Ghana in 2019 as an end-to-end effort that encompasses SCD screening, diagnosis, treatment, education, research and advocacy. Today this unique program has been expanded to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia, with plans to reach a total of 10 countries.

Among its varied contributions to the program, PerkinElmer will work toward strengthening existing SCD programs by providing training, consultations, support and related services to health care professionals and lab technicians across participating countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Company will also help establish new lab facilities to build capacity for SCD screening in participating countries.

“As a global leader in newborn screening solutions we are pleased to be working with Novartis to assist people across sub-Saharan Africa affected by this condition,” said Petra Furu, general manager, reproductive health at PerkinElmer. “By building awareness around the importance of newborn screening, our hope is that more babies receive an early diagnosis that leads to earlier treatment – ensuring they have the best possible chance of a healthy start to life.”

“This collaboration with PerkinElmer reaffirms our commitment to reimagining care for sickle cell disease patients, by accelerating access to national newborn screening and hydroxyurea through public-private partnerships with local governments and other organizations,” said Racey Muchilwa, Country President and the Head of Novartis sub-Saharan Africa. “We will also be educating patients, caregivers and communities on the importance of newborn screening, early intervention and treatments while elevating the capacity for healthcare professionals to address the high unmet need of SCD.”

In an initiative announced in March 2021, PerkinElmer works alongside the American Society of Hematology and its Consortium on Newborn Screening in Africa (CONSA) to provide resources for SCD screening programs in countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Liberia and Tanzania. Novartis announced its partnership with ASH in early June, which will advance ASH’s CONSA objectives to demonstrate the benefits of newborn screening and early interventions for children with SCD and create a sustainable infrastructure for SCD newborn screening.

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