WHO Member States Must Increase Investments in R&D for New Tools to Meet Urgent Health Challenges
Statement of Jamie Bay Nishi, Director, Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC)
WASHINGTON, DC—Next week’s World Health Assembly will be setting priorities that have enormous life-altering implications for billions of people around the world. The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) is calling on World Health Organization (WHO) member states to increase investments in research and development (R&D), as new tools and technologies are essential for meeting urgent challenges, from achieving universal health coverage (UHC) to fighting antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), and emerging threats like Ebola.
R&D is essential for delivering on the promise of UHC. We still lack many of the tools needed to combat major health challenges facing the world’s poorest and to achieve global goals to drastically reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality, end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, and eliminate neglected tropical diseases. Attaining all these goals will require new investments that deliver a range of innovations and insights, as well as efforts to strengthen the overall health system in multiple areas, including clinical trial capacity, laboratory systems and regulatory frameworks. That’s why it is critical to elevate R&D as a central pillar to achieving UHC.
There is an urgent need to mobilize new R&D investments and enhance coordination to combat AMR, which could erase decades of medical progress. Growing drug-resistance is reinvigorating leading killers of children like tuberculosis, pneumonia, malaria, typhoid and diarrheal diseases, in addition to spurring deadly hospital-based infections. We currently lack tools needed to fight back, which is why R&D must be a central focus of the battle against AMR. We need new antimicrobials, as well as better diagnostics to detect drug-resistant infections and vaccines to prevent them.
One of the biggest drivers of the global AMR challenge is DR-TB. The WHO and member states must support efforts to develop new TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, and deliver on the global commitments made at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB: to diagnose and treat 40 million people by 2022 and close the US$1.3 billion gap in annual funding for TB R&D.
Finally, we need to intensify global efforts to develop new tools to prevent health emergencies. The recent re-emergence of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo highlights the critical importance of developing drug and vaccine candidates, diagnostics and mobilizing additional tools, like mobile laboratories, well in advance of an outbreak. We will continue to struggle to contain Ebola, or an outbreak of a disease not yet on our radar, without sustained, coordinated investments that deliver the tools needed to ensure the next outbreak does not become a global crisis. WHO should also expand its Essential Diagnostic List to include platform technologies to help us better prepare to respond to the next “Disease X.”
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