US group Genzyme has unveiled a new philanthropic program - the Humanitarian Assistance for Neglected Diseases initiative (HAND) - which aims to help discover and progress novel treatments for neglected diseases affecting the developing world.

The company said it intends to focus on projects where it can play a “defined role in the process of moving potential new treatments from discovery toward clinical testing,” and will not seek to generate a profit from the sales of any drugs it has helped to develop; all commercial and intellectual property rights will be granted to non-profit partners.

"Society has a responsibility to do more to reduce the devastating impact of infectious disease in the developing world," said Genzyme chairman and chief executive, Henri Termeer. "Industry has a unique contribution to make by applying drug discovery and translational research capabilities to create new solutions - filling a gap where there is clearly a great need.”

According to Genzyme, its new programme will help to identify, evaluate and manage scientific projects and partnerships focused on diseases that collectively affect hundreds of millions of people, including malaria, tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, sleeping sickness and other diseases.

“As a single company, we can play only a small part. But we hope to act as a catalyst to encourage the involvement of others by creating partnership models that demonstrate how companies can contribute in ways that shareholders will support and other important stakeholders will welcome," Termeer stated.