By Kat Kelley, Senior Program Assistant, Global Health Technologies Coalition
This post originally appeared on the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Breakthroughs blog.
On Tuesday, GHTC launched our seventh annual policy report through a congressional briefing and panel discussion. The critical role played by the US government in catalyzing global health research and development (R&D) was a recurring theme, as panelists discussed the interconnectedness of global and American health and emphasized the need for new health tools to protect against outbreaks and continue progress.
As moderator, GHTC Director Erin Will Morton opened the briefing, reminding attendees that despite the landmark progress achieved in global health over the past fifteen years, the US government must continue to invest in health R&D to achieve the next milestones in global health. “Goal setting works. And R&D for new technologies is key to achieving global health goals,” said Morton.
Morton emphasized how past investments have had a remarkable impact, highlighting that the neglected disease pipeline has grown from 365 products under development in 2012 to 485 in 2015. However, as the GHTC policy report points out, US funding for global health R&D has stagnated or declined since 2009, and with the exception of the emergency funding for Ebola, 2014 funding levels were down 13 percent. “Our dollars are best spent when [US] agencies are working closely together,” said Morton, highlighting three goals the US government should embrace to advance innovation, as detailed in the report, including the importance of sustainable, long-term funding and innovative financing mechanisms; improved coordination of global health R&D efforts across US agencies; and streamlined and strengthened regulatory pathways.
Panelist Dr. Peter Hotez—president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and US science envoy—reiterated the need for long-term, sustainable funding for global health R&D, noting that the science to develop an Ebola vaccine was first published in 2013, but the technology sat there and was not advanced to product development because Ebola is a neglected disease and the technology offered little financial incentive to the private sector. He emphasized the role of US government investment in catalyzing health research, noting that when the US government “stepped in” and put up more than US$100 million to develop an Ebola vaccine, three leading pharmaceutical companies joined in.