April 24, 2013

New bill would bolster USAID’s role in global health research

Policy and Advocacy Officer

Earlier this month, Reps. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act, which would make several important and welcome changes to global health research and development (R&D) programs at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Previous versions of this legislation were introduced in 2009 and again in 2011, but did not advance past the committee level. Compared with the previous versions, the bill introduced this month includes several key changes that take a more comprehensive approach to global health R&D at USAID.

Key provisions in the bill include:

This new legislation—which was developed in close partnership with GHTC member PATH—supports global health R&D efforts across USAID. While it includes the Health Tech program, it also promotes research programming for every disease or health condition category that falls under USAID’s global health mission. This is an important sign of progress, as there are many health areas where new drugs, vaccines, diagnostic tools, and other technologies are sorely needed. This includes R&D for neglected tropical diseases and tuberculosis vaccines, which currently do not receive support from USAID.

The legislation also looks across USAID’s spectrum of R&D work and takes into account introduction and scale-up needs, as well as harnessing the promise of science and technology—which Shah and President Obama have previously highlighted. Finally, the addition of strategy alignment with other US agencies is another welcome change. Because the United States is involved in the development of 200 of the 365 current technology candidates in the global pipeline, a strategy that aligns all US global health R&D would increase transparency and coordination among the major agencies that support this important work.

It is unclear at this point how the bill will move forward, although there are several mechanisms available. For example, the bill could progress in Congress as a stand-alone bill, or as an amendment to a larger foreign affairs or global health package. At this point, there is no Senate version of the bill, although that may be a positive next step. If implemented, this legislation could provide promising improvements in US global health R&D transparency, coordination, and financing that would help new global health technologies reach those who need them most.

You can find a press release from Rep. Sires here.

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