Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

GHIT Fund calls for greater collaboration to tackle infectious diseases

This week, the Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund and the Embassy of Japan convened a panel of leading global health experts in London, meeting at the School to plan greater cross-border collaboration to ensure global preparedness for the resurgence of infectious diseases including TB, Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Neglected Tropical Diseases.

A new Japanese-led initiative, the GHIT Fund is the world’s first product development fund for global health R&D and aims to advance the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. Through facilitating international partnerships and providing research funding via a grant-making investment mechanism, the GHIT Fund enables Japanese innovation to play a more direct role in reducing health disparities worldwide.

Professor Peter Piot, Director at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a GHIT Board Member, is urging global leaders to act now to avert the threat of epidemics. “The development of treatments and vaccines must be prioritised during both inter-epidemic and epidemic periods”, he said. “Emphasis must be placed on creating a mechanism for accelerating development and testing interventions when epidemic situations arise so we are better aligned and globally prepared. With the right blend of political will, public awareness, resources and science, we can educate, prevent, treat and, eventually, eliminate many of the diseases that affect the developing world.”

The threat of global epidemics has highlighted the failure of the current commercial R&D model to keep up with the moving targets of infectious diseases. Researchers now need to start looking at new ways to drive drug development to rapidly address the threats that infectious diseases pose in order to meet the needs of developing world populations.

Dr B.T. Slingsby, CEO and Executive Director of the GHIT Fund, said: “The Fund uniquely measures impact and progress against rigorous criteria and metrics throughout the product development process. This enables us to quantitatively assess the results of our development partners and ultimately understand the health, social and economic impact of our work. Huge R&D efforts are required to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment and we urge governments, industry and academia to engender a stronger political voice for fighting infectious diseases.”

The GHIT Fund is an independent body funded by the government of Japan, five leading Japanese pharmaceutical companies, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Trevor Mundel, President of the Foundation’s Global Health Division said: “The re-emergence of infectious diseases has been a global wake-up call and it’s essential we look in new directions and explore new opportunities for developing solutions. We need better knowledge sharing through partnerships between high and middle-income countries, donors and developing countries.”

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