World powers on Friday launched a project on the sidelines of G8 talks to develop vaccines against pneumococcal diseases as part of a new market-based mechanism for the developing world.
The Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) programme was first outlined in 2007 and will encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in research for vaccines against deadly diseases by promising to buy the vaccines at a fixed price.
But critics warn it could fail to bring down prices for poor countries.
Britain, Canada, Italy, Norway and Russia as well as the Gates Foundation are contributing 1.5 billion dollars (1.1 billion euros) to the programme.
The finance ministers of current G8 host Italy, as well as of Canada and Russia signed off on the new project at a ceremony in Lecce in southern Italy.
"Italy is proud to support the AMC initiative: immunisation is an investment in human capital that fosters long-term economic development," Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti was quoted as saying in a written statement.
The current pneumococcal vaccine is sold at over 70 dollars in industrialised countries. Thanks to the new programme, the long-term price for developing countries is estimated at 3.5 dollars, the statement said.
"This innovative mechanism ... which I hope will extend to other diseases, enables those who need vaccines in the developing world to access them," Rwandan Health Minister Richard Sezibera was quoted as saying.
Pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia claim 1.6 million lives every year.
But non-governmental group Medicins Sans Frontieres warned only Western pharma giants would likely benefit from the scheme and said developing world producers should be involved to bring down the price of vaccines.
"It's only if developing country manufacturers enter the market that we can expect prices to come down to more affordable levels in the future," Laurent Gadot, a health economist at MSF, said in a statement.