Global health research and development has a multiplier effect. It not only saves and improves lives, but also creates cost savings, drives economic growth and enhances global security. When global health organizations form partnerships in research and development, progress can extend even further.

On April 28, Sabin’s Vice President of Resource Development and Policy, Tara Hayward, addressed a high-level gathering of global health policy experts in Berlin at the G20 Global Health Innovation Summit. The event, “‘Research for Impact’ & the G20: How can global health innovation drive sustainable development?” brought together leaders from nonprofits, governments and multilateral institutions working to accelerate innovation in global health.

Research and development partnerships have helped support progress to meet the Millennium Development Goals, a group of interdependent goals established by UN member states in 2000 to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. These partnerships have been particularly supportive of efforts to meet Millennium Development Goal 6, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and will be critical to achieving goals outlined by the Sustainable Development Goals.

While efforts targeting this goal have focused heavily on the “Big Three” – HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis – many neglected diseases often fail to attract adequate resources, leaving a dangerous gap in global investment into research and development. According to the 2016 G-Finder report, funding for neglected disease research and development fell in 2015 for the third consecutive year, also marking the sixth year since 2009 that has seen a decline in funding.

Both the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the 2015 Zika epidemic in the Western Hemisphere, highlighted a mostly empty pipeline of new neglected disease products, and the dangers that a dearth of health technologies – especially vaccines – can create.

During the summit’s opening roundtable discussion, Hayward emphasized that to accelerate innovation and impact for neglected and emerging infectious diseases, there is a need to develop innovative financing mechanisms to attract more private and public sector partnerships and investment.

Recent initiatives including open patent pools, drug libraries and genetic sequencing projects are driving the early discovery processes and encouraging innovation. Partnerships like the Global Health Innovative Technologies (GHIT) Fund and the recently launched Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are just two examples of innovative funding mechanisms that are drawing in more and diverse partners. The Chief Executive Officer of CEPI, Richard Hatchett, was on hand at the event to emphasize the importance of pandemic and epidemic preparedness, requiring partnership from around the world.

The G20 countries, with a focus on economic development in the top 20 economies, are well positioned to broaden the community of stakeholders advancing research and development.

Coming out of the G20 Health Innovation Summit, participants shared a Call to Action urging the G20 to commit to the following actions:

  1. Political leadership to address the inter-related issues of AMR, pandemic preparedness/ response and PRNDs
  2. Increased financial support and its co-ordination across the G20 and partner countries for global health innovation, including research and development for drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and other health technologies.
  3. Encourage business, philanthropic organizations and other financing institutions from the G20 to increase investment
  4. Make full use of G20 public health and scientific expertise

Participating organizations also launched a petition urging the G20 to commit investment in research, innovation and development of innovative health technologies.

The global health community often talks about how “diseases know no borders,” but there is less acknowledgement of the need for more models like the GHIT Fund and CEPI. Partnerships like these, supported by the G20, help globalize efforts against the spread of disease and bring us into an era where innovation is fostered by new levels of public-private partnerships and investment.


Photo: Quadriga Forum Berlin, Laurin Schmid