B20 message to G20 – Health drives solutions built on collaboration and pro-innovation ecosystems
This blog was first published on G20 – The Hamburg Summit in July 2017 (Produced in association with the G7 and G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto)
The fact that “health” has entered into the G20 agenda is not surprising. Economic development and health development go together – health is wealth. But as governments find their limited resources spread ever wider, and their populations, luckily, living longer there are stark choices that must be made. Equipping health systems to maintain and improve the health and productivity of ageing populations, while continuing strides made in the fight against the world’s most prevalent diseases, were among the challenges that shaped the five recommendations of the B20 Health Initiative:
- Driving innovation in healthcare, creating and nurturing innovation ecosystems to collectively address health challenges;
- Combatting antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to preserve the many health gains of the past 100 years;
- Advancing the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which disproportionately impact people in countries with weak health systems;
- Improving pandemic preparedness and response, learning from ongoing efforts to prevent flu epidemics and fast track solutions for new epidemics like Ebola and Zika.
Before completing the list of B20 recommendations, it is worth highlighting that innovation ecosystems, AMR, NTDs and pandemic preparedness response all share at their core the concept of “collaboration” or “partnership” as the main solutions.
The inventions of yesterday and today are contributing to enormous strides in life expectancy and mortality rates in just one generation, with rates plummeting by nearly one third. The great advances in oncology treatment, rheumatoid arthritis, or indeed how AIDS has evolved from a death sentence into a chronic disease show that the biopharmaceutical industry is delivering new solutions. Sustainable innovation requires countries to create a climate that promotes knowledge exchange through collaboration across sectors, along with investment in educational infrastructure and public-private research programs. We can no longer rely on smart people from one organisation, one company or even one country. We must utilize a global network with a wide range of expertise and experience coupled with a high level of synchronization. Much like an orchestra, each partner has a unique role to play but all must work together in harmony to produce a masterpiece. This can only happen through the cultivation of predictable, transparent and robust legal and regulatory regimes – ensuring effective intellectual property (IP) systems that incentivize investment and regulatory standards that converge to form common standards of excellence.
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Earlier this year, the NTD Summit demonstrated undeniably that collaboration can change the lives of literally millions of people. In 2015 alone, one billion people were reached with treatments for NTDs as part of a 10 year commitment made by the World Health Organization (WHO), philanthropists, and research-based biopharmaceutical companies. This effort is just one example of the over 300 global health partnerships involving the biopharmaceutical industry, providing donations, training and capacity building, R&D and much more. There have also been longstanding collaborations between the WHO and the biopharmaceutical industry for pandemic preparedness, and more recently partnering with regulators and scientists to lead the way in discovering treatments for Zika in record breaking time. The next great frontier for collaborative action is AMR; at the B20 Health Conference we launched the AMR Industry Alliance with the aim of tracking and reporting on how the community of the life-sciences industries are living up to their commitments.
The final recommendation: advancing digital health, remains fundamentally linked to health system sustainability by measuring value, based on outcomes, and reducing all forms of waste in the health system – not just CO2! Bringing all this together highlights the effectiveness of competitive research and policies that reward the successful innovator through the respect of intellectual property rights and recognition of therapeutic value. Ultimately, success in driving innovation in healthcare and advance the ways in which health systems can cope with existing challenges will be our legacy for future generations.