Health Systems, Collaboration, Research Funding Before Innovation, Speakers Say 23/05/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The fight against epidemics cannot only rely on innovation, according to speakers at an event organised by the pharmaceutical industry alongside the annual World Health Assembly’s opening day. Strong health systems, collaboration of all stakeholders, preventive measures, and the ability to fund research are prerequisite to innovation, they said. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) organised an event on the side of the 69th World Health Assembly on 23 May, looking at how global health threats such as the Ebola and Zika viruses prompt innovation. According to Jennie Ward-Robinson, president and CEO of the PAHO Foundation, innovation is important but a prerequisite for innovation is a strong health system, including good surveillance and assessment, monitoring and multi-stakeholder engagement. For Gaston Picchio, vice-president, Scientific Affairs at Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company, there is a need to find new ways to collaborate and bring stakeholders together and also find innovative ways to fund innovation. Bernadette Murgue, project manager at the World Health Organization, presented the WHO’s Research and Development Blueprint, which aims to reduce the time between the declaration of a public health emergency and the availability of counter measures. She said the blueprint has three main approaches: accelerate the R&D process; improve coordination and foster an enabling environment; and develop norms and standards. Ward-Robinson underlined the fact that in the Latin American and the Caribbean region the Zika response is a tradeoff, a win-lose situation, as the occurrence of syphilis is growing as funds that used to be devoted to the fight against the disease are diverted to Zika. Laurent Kaiser, professor of medicine at the University of Geneva, said for Zika there is a lack of basic epidemiological data and this is important to support basic innovation. Ward-Robinson concurred. In the absence of fundamental epidemiological data, vector control and stakeholder collaboration, “we will have this conversation again.” Fighting Zika is not one stakeholder’s responsibility, she said, no academy, industry or government is going to solve the problem. There is a need for a collaborative funding model, she said. Picchio underlined the importance of vector control. “We cannot predict the next epidemic,” he said, “but we know mosquitoes transmit viruses.” A vaccine for Zika will not be available for several years, he said. Picchio said Janssen has created 1.5 million doses of Ebola vaccine, which is not approved. “But how do we get to the finish line?” he asked, as one epidemic is replaced by the next one. Funding is of prime importance, and there is a lot of discussion among pharmaceutical companies about how much should be invested in this kind of research in the future, he said. Klaus Schönenberger, EssentialTech programme leader at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), as special guest, presented a project of a new protective equipment for health workers in infected areas, which would be safe, robust, and low cost, and he called for funders to develop the project further. One of the main interests of this new protective equipment, he told Intellectual Property Watch, is that is it reusable and ventilated to allow people to work for several hours, contrary to the current equipment. Ward-Robinson concluded by saying “we have to change mindset on how we think of health and public health.” Instead of thinking of public health in terms of burden and cost, it must be seen as an investment for a sustainable future for all. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Health Systems, Collaboration, Research Funding Before Innovation, Speakers Say" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.