Accelerating health technologies

Women in white lab coats and hats work on assembly line of medical vials.With increased support from the US Government and other partners, research for new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, and other products can help create the next generation of lifesaving health technologies. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

New technologies hold promise to save lives

In the near future, new technologies for global health—vaccines, drugs, microbicides, diagnostics, and devices—could reduce suffering and save millions of lives worldwide:

  • A vaccine against malaria could protect against a disease that threatens half the world’s population.
  • New drugs could change the lives of the more than 1 billion people who suffer from neglected tropical diseases each year.
  • A microbicide that could effectively block HIV and other sexually transmitted infections could become a critical woman-initiated prevention tool.
  • Shorter tuberculosis (TB) treatment regimens currently under development could reduce transmission of TB by 10 percent, resulting in fewer infections and fewer people requiring treatment for the disease.
  • An HIV/AIDS vaccine could reduce the number of new HIV infections in the developing world by 25 percent over 15 years—preventing more than 5 million new infections.
  • New, effective contraceptive devices could help families in developing countries avoid pregnancies that are ill-timed or unwanted, which account for an estimated 25 percent of all pregnancies.

Finding the next generation of tools

Investments in health technologies have already led to tremendous advancements in global health. Smallpox, a disease that once decimated populations across continents, has been eradicated. Millions of people have been spared from diseases such as polio and measles, allowing them to live longer, more productive lives.

Existing technologies have made this progress possible, many of which were supported by the United States. In fact, there has been a remarkable increase in global health products in recent years, with 45 new products registered between 2000 and 2010. The US government was involved in the development of more than half of these new, lifesaving tools. As of 2013, nonprofit product developers—and their partners—contributed to the development, evaluation, and/or introduction of 42 global health technologies.* Now, we need to expand access to these tools and develop the next generation of technologies that will prevent, diagnose, and treat global health threats:

  • Through a proven, cost-effective treatment, millions have been cured of TB. However, this treatment regimen is long and difficult for patients to sustain. Moreover, drug-resistant TB cases are rising. The current vaccine in use is almost 100 years old and TB drugs are 50 years old, signaling an urgent need for new drugs and vaccines.
  • Deaths of children under five from diarrheal disease have declined by more than half since the 1980s, but we need to redouble efforts to prevent the almost 16,000 deaths still occurring every week. New vaccines against diarrheal disease could help save them.
  • Life expectancy in the world’s poorest countries could increase more than 20 percent by 2050 if recent advancements against HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other infectious diseases continue.

Cooperation and collaboration are key

Solving these and other challenges requires the cooperation and collaboration of every sector—private and public, governmental and nongovernmental. The United States, which has historically been the leader in health research and development, plays an especially vital role. New research has found that the United States government is the largest funder of global health research in the world, investing $12.7 billion over the past 10 years in the creation of new vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and other products for neglected diseases. Many of these new products are on course to save millions of lives and dollars around the world. As the largest funder of global health research, the United States can and should maintain its leadership in the advancement of new global health technologies to benefit the health of people around the world.

The challenges ahead of us are great, but they are not insurmountable. With adequate investment in the discovery, development, and delivery of global health technologies, we can stop the spread of disease, effectively treat once-devastating conditions, and save lives.

For more information on the above data, see:

World Health Organization (WHO). World Malaria Report 2011.

WHO. Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND). Cepheid announces new diagnostic technology in ongoing efforts to halt the spread of TB.

Population Council. Reproductive Health Program: From Product Development to Service Delivery (262 KB PDF).

WHO. Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World. Report No. 4 (2.36 MB PDF).

PATH. Developing New Vaccines Against Diarrheal Disease (137 KB PDF).

Global Health Technologies Coalition and Policy Cures. Saving Lives and Creating Impact.

Global Health Technologies Coalition. NPPD products developed as of 2013.

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