Activists often slam large pharmaceutical companies for failing to develop drugs that are of critical importance to the developing world.

Andrew Witty, GlaxoSmithKline's youthful chief executive, gave those critics pause yesterday in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Witty promised to sell the company's malaria vaccine that is in late-stage clinical trials in Africa for no more than a 5 percent profit. At the same time, he is inviting other researchers to work on combatting  the mosquito-borne malady at a company laboratory in Spain and will make public a library of thousands of compounds screened for leads against malaria, according to a report at

Witty is setting an example for the entire industry at a time when new drug pipelines are increasingly challenged and the companies may only be able to survive if they are able to devise innovative new strategies in collaboration with governments, academia and the biotech industry.

Glaxo's move may bode well for the ultimate fate of Unitaid, an attempt to pool patents to let generic drug manufacturers create inexpensive HIV drugs.

Kudos to Witty. Now let's see if the rest of the industry can respond in kind. We need other drug giants with ample resources to step up for schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and the like.