Cover photo: Gates Foundation

Tuberculosis (TB), malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have a devastating impact on human development – not only are they responsible for millions of deaths around the world, they also disproportionately affect those living below the poverty line. Taken together these diseases are considered to be “poverty promoting” and tackling them will be crucial to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In spite of their impact, TB, malaria and NTDs have been largely neglected in pharmaceutical research and development, and there is an urgent need for increased innovation in health technologies for these diseases.

However, increasing innovation is not enough in itself. Evidence suggests that the capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to absorb, deliver and provide access to new health technologies such as vaccines, diagnostics and medicines to treat TB, malaria and NTDs is low. LMICs require strengthening of decision-making capacity relating to new health technologies, particularly in the areas of facilitating policy and legal coherence within national frameworks; undertaking health implementation research and safety monitoring; promoting sustainable financing and commercialization of health technologies; and ensuring efficient supply chain and delivery systems.

An innovative partnership between the Government of Japan and UNDP seeks to address these capacity gaps. The partnership builds on the synergies between the Government of Japan’s Global Health Policy, which aims to stimulate research on NTDs and UNDP’s strategic aim to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and improve human security, by strengthening countries’ institutions to progressively deliver universal access to basic services.

The partnership consists of two components – the Global  Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund and the Access and Delivery Partnership (ADP). The GHIT Fund stimulates research and development in drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for TB, malaria and NTDs through the funding of research and product development partnerships. The ADP, a partnership between UNDP, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and PATH, complements the goals of the GHIT Fund by helping to bridge the gap between research and development, and access and delivery of new health technologies in LMICs.

The ADP supports countries to strengthen their capacities to address bottlenecks in access to and delivery of new health technologies. UNDP, working with TDR, PATH and other technical partners, will strengthen capacity in three focus countries – Ghana, Indonesia and Tanzania – in the areas of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks; monitoring of safety issues; health financing; and pricing, supply and delivery systems for access to and delivery of new health technologies for TB, malaria and NTDs.

Cecilia Oh is Project Manager of the ADP and Programme Advisor at UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub.