Global experts gather in Bangkok for Second Global Dialogue of Uniting Efforts for Innovation, Access and Delivery
BANGKOK – The year 2020 holds high importance for sustainable development, including efforts to accelerate innovation, access and delivery of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and other health technologies for neglected diseases, kicked off by a gathering of over 100 experts in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Uniting Efforts for Innovation, Access and Delivery Global Platform brings together a unique set of health experts, including governments (both donor and endemic country governments), innovators, funders, delivery specialists and other stakeholders including multilateral and UN agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Second Global Dialogue of Uniting Efforts was held on 2-3 February and is the first of several targeted efforts on the issue unfolding this year.
Uniting Efforts focuses on increasing access to medicines for neglected diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Launched in 2019, the platform is led by the Government of Japan, the UNDP-led Access and Delivery Partnership (ADP) and the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund).
Neglected tropical diseases, such as schistosomiasis, dengue or chagas, can be debilitating or deadly if left untreated. They have broader implications for families, poverty, the workforce and the economy. And, despite progress, well over a billion people are considered to be affected by NTDs, and the WHO has identified 149 countries as endemic for at least one NTD.
The Second Global Dialogue of Uniting Efforts was timely, coming at the outset of the Decade of Action for the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“2020 is an important year,” Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Group, told the event. “This is really the first of several key moments this year when we have the opportunity to accelerate the pace of progress on this important agenda.”
Dhaliwal said the time is now to “take the ‘neglected’ out of neglected tropical diseases,” referencing a recent article in The Lancet.
Two issues formed a basis for the Dialogue’s work: how to prepare the planning for access and delivery in R&D; and strategies to increase and improve financing for access and delivery for neglected diseases. Speakers included senior government representatives, innovators, funders, civil society and other experts. Many highlighted the relevance of this platform and the need to improve both access and sustainable financing to effectively address neglected diseases.
Experts agree there is a lack of a critical pathway from basic science and R&D for new health technologies to their eventual access and delivery, as well as variability in how funders, product development partnerships and other innovators approach or integrate access and delivery, and the financing and funding for access and delivery of resulting health technologies.
“To realize the goal of ensuring that innovative products are delivered and save patients’ lives, a coherent policy from R&D to access and delivery is critical,” said Kazuho Taguchi, Director of Global Health Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan. “It is also important to take into consideration the differences in prevention and treatment of each disease as well as the different needs of each country.”
Participants engage in thematic working groups during the Second Global Dialogue on Uniting Efforts for Innovation, Access and Delivery. Photo: Ian Mungall/UNDP.
Participants focused on sharing good practices and opportunities, including key tools and guidance, bringing together a diversity of knowledge and experience. Among the key themes of the meeting were the importance of country ownership and the usefulness of building investment cases for neglected diseases.
Authors of knowledge products underway for completion this year received feedback from experts. The studies include: a review of access policies and practices in research and development; a landscape of funding for access and delivery of health technologies for neglected diseases; and a guidance note on investment cases for neglected diseases. This year’s event offered a dynamic, innovative ‘marketplace’ approach, allowing the experts and country stakeholders to interact with each other on key topics, ask questions and offer their insights.
Other high points this year relevant to advancing access and delivery include the World Health Organization’s work on the NTD Roadmap for 2021-2030, and the June Kigali Summit on malaria and neglected tropical diseases that builds on the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs. Also moving ahead this year will be the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All launched in 2019 with 12 signatory health agencies. The inaugural World NTD Day, held on January 30, called 2020 “a decisive year in the fight” against NTDs.
The Dialogue participants heard from representatives of the WHO NTD Department and Uniting to Combat NTDs, the organizers of the June Kigali Summit. They also heard from the WHO Science Department on the accelerator on R&D, Innovation and Access in the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being, and the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi) on lessons learned after 15 years.
“This group is the catalyst. We can make a difference,” said GHIT Fund CEO Catherine Ohura, referencing discussions on seeking ‘catalytic funding’ needed to increase access in low- and middle-income countries.
Partners and participants praised the work of the platform and signalled their strong commitment to continuing its work, highlighting its distinct value as a multi-disciplinary platform for collaboration across funders, innovators and access and delivery experts and the high level of the experts involved.
Cover photo: Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of the UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Group, speaks on a panel with Catherine Ohura, CEO of the GHIT Fund, Kazuho Taguchi, Director of Global Health Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, and Cecilia Oh, Programme Advisor for the Access and Delivery Partnership at UNDP (left to right). Photo: Ian Mungall/UNDP.