The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the fundamental impact that healthy lives have on the entire spectrum of human development. Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3) captures the global ambition to end some of the major epidemics of poverty by 2030, including tuberculosis (TB), malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). In turn, underlying targets stress the need for universal health care coverage for all citizens, and for stronger health systems that enable access to essential health services and technologies. Dig even deeper and SDG3 calls for more research and development (R&D) on new medicines, diagnostics and vaccines: critical innovations that fill current gaps in health care and keep national programmes one step ahead of shifting epidemics. Addressing these aspects will be of critical importance in helping low- and middle-income countries achieve not only SDG3, but also other health targets of the SDGs.