A group of philanthropic funds and investors led by the Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is today announcing the launch of Global Access Health (GAH), a social enterprise that will seek to expand access to affordable state-of-the-art medical technology through decentralized research, development, and manufacturing in and for the Global South.
The group has financed the acquisition of Mologic Ltd, a world leading innovator in the development of lateral flow and rapid diagnostic technologies including tests that can help combat tropical diseases such as dengue, bilharzia, and river blindness, as well as for COVID-19.
The members of GAH will invest at least £30 million ($41 million) in this deal.
The transaction is important in that it transitions a world-class for-profit company into a social enterprise and allows it to entirely reinvest its profits in pursuing these goals. This transformation will give it the ability to address gaps in the provision of global diagnostics in low-income communities and regions that profit-focused business has failed to address.
SEDF is the impact investment arm of the Open Society Foundations. Sean Hinton, SEDF’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated the fundamental inequities in global public health, and in particular the crucial importance of access in low- and middle-income countries to low-price, high-quality life-saving diagnostic tools. In this unique transaction, philanthropic funds and investors are working together with a skilled and visionary management team in a truly innovative way to address at least one part of that failure by enabling a cutting edge commercial business to focus all its resources on solving one of the world’s most pressing public health issues.”
Mologic was established in 2003 by Mark Davis and his father Professor Paul Davis, one of the original creators of ClearBlue, the world’s first home pregnancy test. Mologic’s technology has broad application across markets and disease states where rapid, accurate point-of-need testing can help make a significant difference in patient care and patient outcomes. Its extensive work in developing affordable testing for neglected tropical diseases has been supported by grant funding from a range of donors, and most significantly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mark Davis, CEO of Mologic, welcomed the conclusion of the deal: “Mologic’s transition into a social enterprise is a deliberate, logical and natural step for a company focused on delivering affordable diagnostics and biotechnology to places that have been left underserved by the relentless pursuit of profiteering. With the support of our shareholders, donors and partners we have come a long way; we believe we have the people and the skills required for the challenges and opportunities ahead. And we hope this unique transaction will be an example for others to follow.”
“Testing, or diagnostics, are vital for every day public health needs, to enable doctors and medical professionals to provide patients with proper treatment as early as possible,” said Roxana Bonnell, a public health expert at the Open Society Foundations. “As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to testing is absolutely essential when it comes to containing the spread of contagious disease—an issue that ultimately affects us all.”
As part of the transaction GAH will integrate both Mologic and a sister non-profit entity, Global Access Diagnostics (GAD), which was established by the founders of Mologic with support from SEDF, the UK’s DFID and others in April 2020. GAD is focused on low-cost manufacturing of diagnostic tests, and licenses Mologic’s technology in Africa and South Asia. Mark Davis will continue to serve as CEO of Mologic, with Paul Davis continuing as Chief Scientific Officer. GAD will continue as a separate non-profit entity, under CEO Mark Radford. Both will be wholly-owned and governed by GAH. A number of other philanthropic funds and investors are currently engaged in finalizing their participation in GAH to further the scope and ambition of the organisation.
The transaction involves the acquisition by the investing consortium of all Mologic’s existing shares, including those held by two private investment managers, Foresight Group LLP, and Calculus Capital.
SEDF’s investments in GAH and GAD are part of a portfolio of recent investments made in service of Open Society Foundations’ commitment to expand global access to affordable, quality public health products and technologies. These investments build on two decades of foundation support for improved access to medicines advocacy and policy making globally.
The Open Society Foundations, founded by its chairman George Soros, is the world’s largest private funders of human rights and social justice advocacy groups. The Soros Economic Development Fund, established in 1997, pursues impact investments that are aligned with Open Society’s broader mission, and currently holds 35 investments totaling c.$300m.