July 20, 2014

Research Roundup: Smart power, TB research, female condoms, HIV resource tracking, and more

Senior Program Assistant

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

During the past year, leaders from the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC)—an advocacy organization promoting diplomacy and development—have traveled across America seeking out innovators and innovations that best demonstrate how strategic US investments in global development can enhance America’s foreign policy and security interests—an approach USGLC calls “smart power” diplomacy. USGLC’s reportInnovations in Smart Power—featured PATH’s Vaccine Vial Monitor and the Public Health Institute’s Global Health Fellows Program II.

Dr. Francis Collins—director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—announced on the NIH Director’s blog that NIH will, through its various institutes and centers, begin piloting the idea of awarding longer grants that offer more sustained support for investigators in the hopes it will allow them greater freedom to innovate. Currently, most NIH-funded grants are “project-based”—meaning applicants have very clear research aims for what they will accomplish in a defined period of time, typically between 3-5 years.

Policy Cures released a report—titled Tuberculosis: The Last Mile—which explains why current treatments to tuberculosis (TB) control aren’t working; provides a snapshot of the major funders in TB research and development (R&D); and outlines what new products are in the TB pipeline, and how these products could change the future for patients with TB.

Last month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded exploratory grants—as part of its Grand Challenges in Global Health program—to three projects aimed on improving the design of the female condom to make it easier to use and more pleasurable. Currently, female condoms represent only a small part of the overall commercial market and are not as widely used as a prevention tool by the global health community. “Female condoms give women a choice to say: ‘Okay, if you don’t want to wear one, I will,’” said Debby Herbenick, one of the grant recipients.

GHTC members AVAC and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, as part of the HIV Vaccines & Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group, released a new report tracking funding for HIV prevention R&D in 2013. The report found funding was down by US$ 50 million—or four percent—when compared to 2012. The 2013 decrease can be attributed largely to diminished US investment in all areas of HIV prevention research, as well as significantly reduced investment in some European countries.