Research Roundup: Strain of polio eradicated, NIH & Gates Foundation partner to find genetic cures for HIV & sickle cell, and G20 health ministers issue declaration
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On World Polio Day last week, the World Health Organization officially declared that type three poliovirus has been eradicated—making it the second of the three strains of the virus to be wiped out. Naturally-occurring cases of the last remaining virus strain, type one, are now limited to Afghanistan and Pakistan with a total of just 33 new cases last year. Though much progress has been made toward eradicating this disease, the number of confirmed cases this year has risen to 88 in those two countries as violence and mistrust have hindered vaccination campaigns. Cases caused by the vaccine itself have also thwarted eradication efforts.
The National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will jointly invest US$200 million over the next four years to develop genetic-based cures for sickle cell disease and HIV. Both partners have vowed that the cures will be both affordable and available in low-resource countries hit hardest by the two diseases, particularly in Africa. This partnership reflects growing concerns that scientific advances such as gene therapies and genome-editing are prohibitively expensive and therefore out of reach to most patients. This collaboration aims to move gene-based therapies into clinical trials in the United States and countries in sub-Saharan Africa within the next seven to ten years and eventually make treatments for sickle cell disease and HIV available in the hardest hit areas.
After a two-day meeting in Okayama, Japan, health ministers of the world’s twenty largest economies issued a declaration endorsing the rapid achievement of universal health coverage (UHC), more effective support of healthy ageing, increased attention to health emergencies and their causes, and more forceful action on antimicrobial resistance. The G20 Health Ministers Declaration goes well beyond the general commitments made by G20 leaders to advance global health goals after their two-day meeting back in June. As part of the commitment to UHC, the health ministers recognized the importance of access to medicines and vaccination and reaffirmed pledges to end HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, among other measures.