December 11, 2013

For 2015, the call for innovation is loud and clear

Senior Program Assistant

“We cannot solve what we need to solve with existing interventions—we need science and technology,” said Gary Cohen, executive vice president at Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), at an official side event at the 6th Session of the Opening Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals this week in New York City. The event—co-sponsored by GHTC, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), and COHRED—aimed to ensure that a strong commitment to research and innovation for health is included in the post-2015 development framework.

As the United Nations (UN) and Member States continue progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals, the goals’ 2015 expiration date is right around the corner, and the global community needs to come to consensus on what’s next. Earlier this year, a UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons released a report outlining recommendations for the post-2015 development agenda, including twelve potential goal areas. The goal areas are a promising start, and a new GHTC position paper calls on the governments of the world to ensure that innovation is embedded as a key component of the post-2015 agenda.

Ensuring that innovation is included in the post-2015 development agenda is necessary to maximize health impact for those most in need—namely populations in low- and middle-income countries. Products that are affordable, available, and accessible can contribute to more equitable health outcomes, ultimately ensuring that people are able to live healthy lives and reach their full potential. During the event this week, PATH President and CEO Steve Davis discussed the need for innovative ways to break the cycle of poor health and how PATH—a nonprofit product developer—is making a difference with some of its technologies. It is crucial that the patient is always the top priority in development of new tools. Davis noted that, “Innovation that doesn’t address the most vulnerable populations is not innovation.”

Ensuring that innovation is included in the post-2015 development agenda is necessary to maximize health impact for those most in need—namely populations in low- and middle-income countries.
From left to right: Steve Davis, PATH; Gary Cohen, BD; Kaitlin Christenson, GHTC; Margie McGlynn, IAVI; and Koki Muli, Kenyan Mission to the UN

In order to fully address the need for new global health technologies, the post-2015 development framework must consider creating an enabling environment for health and development. Because of the lack of a commercial market for many products that address the health needs of low- and middle-income countries, for-profit pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are sometime hesitant to take on the development of new tools on their own. Nonprofit product developers, including product development partnerships (PDPs), are able to address this gap by bringing together the public, philanthropic, and private sectors. Margie McGlynn, president and CEO of IAVI, noted at the event that partnerships like PDPs “are critical for delivering innovation and improving health in developing countries.”

To achieve sustainable development, an increased number of good and decent jobs are essential. Science, technology, and innovation are key drivers in economic growth, the creation of new jobs—and ultimately—poverty reduction. Part of this economic growth comes from the private sector’s involvement in global health product development. Cohen of BD mentioned the many areas the private sector can contribute to the development of new technologies and economic growth, including: technology innovation, clinical testing, product development, manufacturing, regulatory processes, and global distribution.

As the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and others continue to discuss what will be included in the post-2015 development agenda, the GHTC has four key recommendations for UN Member States that ensure the that the critical role of global health R&D is acknowledged. Specifically:

We’ve seen countless examples of how new technologies can make a difference in the health of vulnerable populations. “New technologies have contributed to saving millions of lives and billions of dollars,” Kaitlin Christenson, coalition director of the GHTC, said at the event. It now time to make sure that science, technology, and innovation have a clear place in what the final post-2015 development agenda looks like.