A collective approach can improve access to quality cancer care

This article was originally published by Re:solve Global Health on 14 July 2022.

The task of taking quality care to those living with cancer grows more difficult with the exploding number of new cases. A new initiative pools together expertise to widen access to timely and effective treatment.

The global cancer population is significant and expanding. From over 19 million a year in 2020, the number of new cases is expected to reach 30 million by 2040, including over 16 million premature deaths due to cancer, with massive human and economic costs.

In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in low- and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs) and an estimated 2.3 million deaths were caused by cancer. People living with cancer were disproportionately impacted by the covid-19 pandemic, as their access to screening, diagnosis, treatment, and care was severely disrupted.

Most LLMICs do not have sufficient resources to respond to the needs of people living with cancer. They have a limited availability of essential medicines, diagnostics, and human and material resources required for quality cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care services.

According to Dr Anil D’Cruz, president of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and director of oncology at Apollo Hospitals in India, “Simply making medicines available does not guarantee that people living with cancer will receive the medicines they need at the right time.”

Working towards a common goal

It is in response to this urgent threat that the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition brings together close to 30 partners, including the biopharmaceutical industry, with a common goal to improve access to medicines as well as quality diagnostic and care pathways for people living with cancer.

The ATOM Coalition can help the world achieve the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4, which aims to reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Launched in May 2022 by UICC and a broad array of partners, the Coalition aims to improve timely access to essential cancer medicines in LLMICs, as well as increase the capacity for high-quality diagnosis and treatment.

Priority will be given to medicines currently on, or likely to be included in the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Medicines List (EML) for the treatment of cancers with the heaviest mortality burden in LLMICs, including lung, colorectal, breast, cervical, prostate, and childhood cancers.

Forging a unique collaborative model

The Coalition brings together numerous partners with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programmes. As of June 2022, the partnership consists of 19 global health-focused civil society organisations, medical societies, and global oncology centres, and nine biopharmaceutical and generic manufacturers and associations, along with informal expressions of support from various organisations.

The ATOM Coalition has always exemplified a collaborative partnership model, integrating civil society and private sector perspectives from the beginning through a series of co-creation workshops and meetings to find ways for all stakeholders to work together for improved cancer care in LLMICs.

It is also working to generate synergies across a wide range of existing global and country-level initiatives that are implementing access to cancer care projects in LLMICs. By building on the networks, health expertise, and experience of all partners, the intention is to create links between different health initiatives to complement, enhance and amplify impact across projects.

To achieve the Coalition’s ambitions, partners will collectively increase access to select generic and patented cancer medicines in 46 LLMIC countries, which were selected based on existing health system readiness. In parallel, the ATOM partners will implement intense, coordinated capacity building in five to 10 LLMICs within this group for the first phase of operations.

The initial selection of countries for capacity building will be based on a range of criteria—including the presence of ATOM partners, health system readiness, diagnostic capability, the status of the national EMLs, and the existence of access programmes in the country.

We are encouraged by the new way of working illustrated by the ATOM Coalition. As noted by Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), “Building on ‘same old’ ways of working will not achieve this goal [of improving health outcomes for people living with cancer in LLMICs]. We need to push ourselves to share ideas and expertise, inspire new thinking, and co-create new types of solutions for LLMICs.”

This first-of-its-kind model will spur collaborations and provide solutions to communities and, if the model proves successful, we could devise many more collaborative approaches to address other priority global health issues.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Re:solve Global Health.

Vanessa Peberdy is deputy director for Global Health at IFPMA. She joined in 2015 and covers a wide range of global health affairs relating to the access to medicines agenda, including non-communicable diseases, universal health coverage and multilateral engagement.

Melissa Rendler-Garcia is senior advisor to UICC and project lead on ATOM. She has worked with the CEO and the team for over 15 years designing and implementing global cancer control initiatives including the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit and the City Cancer Challenge.

Caring for chronic diseases in lower-resource settings

This blog was originally published on Business & Industry on 29 June 2022.

In the wake of COVID-19, lower-resourced settings need sustainable healthcare more than ever to build back better. Promising solutions are at hand.

Each year, 41 million people die from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases[1]. This group of chronic diseases, called non-communicable diseases (NCDs), burden health systems and put people at increased risk of other illnesses such as COVID-19.

Sadly, NCDs disproportionately affect people in parts of the world with limited access to health services[2]. Tried and tested solutions should be leveraged to strengthen health systems to prevent, diagnose and treat them in a timely way. [3]

Tailored health packages

Cost-effective packages of health interventions[4] could help support low- and middle-income countries reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs by 2030, one of the global goals to which countries have committed.

For example, the upfront costs of diabetes management – such as glycaemic control, footcare, and screening and treatment of kidney disease – are high. However, these are associated with considerable health and socioeconomic benefits when combined with cardiovascular disease prevention throughout the life-course[5].

Streamlining patient care by supporting a ‘one stop shop’ for daily disease management is another approach. Launched in 2020, the PATH-led CarePak initiative, which bundles diabetes treatment, consumables and educational material, has positively impacted health outcomes in Kenya, Mali, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Integrated care

Integrated care at primary healthcare level, such as screening and treatment of multiple diseases at the same point of care, is a powerful model for leveraging scarce healthcare resources. One initiative looking to optimise limited resources is Sanofi’s Diabetes and Hypertension clinics[6], which detect, treat and manage the two conditions.

So far, this initiative has trained over 1,200 healthcare professionals and treated more than 50,000 patients in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal. More integrated care models tailored to local needs should be developed.

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases

[2] Ibid

[3] https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/710899/?ln=en

[4] NCD Countdown 2030: efficient pathways and strategic investments to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.4 in low-income and middle-income countries. Dr David Watkins et al. Lancet 2022; 399: 1266–78. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02347-

[5] Ibid

[6] https://globalhealthprogress.org/collaboration/diabetes-and-hypertension-clinics-in-sub-saharan-africa/

Collaboration can help find a vaccine within first 100 days

This blog was originally published on Health Awareness on 21 June 2022.

We must take pandemic preparedness farther, faster by ensuring a joint response to future outbreaks.

Our efforts against COVID-19 have surfaced critical learnings, including the need to establish a global foundational capability, fit for purpose ahead of the next health emergency.

Key learnings for a better vaccine ecosystem

We have witnessed the importance of solid multistakeholder collaborations to develop pandemic countermeasures. We have also seen the need to build a robust, functional and decentralised vaccine ecosystem to ensure the world is better protected against infectious diseases today and can respond faster to future pandemic outbreaks.

The first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use only 326 days after the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was released. This was the fastest vaccine development ever, slashing by a fifth the previous record.

This speed of response has been key to change the impact of COVID. Now, we can prepare to react even quicker to the next pandemic and ensure equitable access to new innovations sooner. With sustained political and industry leadership and collaboration, we could cut this time to a third.

Success ingredients for the 100 Days Mission  

Spearheaded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and supported by the G7 UK Presidency, the 100 Days Mission aims to develop and deploy high-quality diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines in just 100 days after a new pandemic threat is identified.

This programme is our best shot at preventing the next emerging pathogen from reaching pandemic proportions, because the faster an effective vaccine is developed, approved and deployed, the faster the next Disease X can be contained and controlled.

For this, the biopharmaceutical industry will build a portfolio of promising candidate vaccines, treatments and technologies against pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential. These efforts will work best if paired with improved surveillance infrastructure and regulations for the immediate sharing of pathogen data, so that threats are quickly detected and candidate tools swiftly tested.

Equally important, we need to standardise regulatory processes to speed up market access and expand manufacturing capacity so that these tools are deployed faster, fairly and equitably in future health emergencies.

Our collective ability to foster and maintain a sustainable innovation ecosystem will determine the success of this ambitious initiative. Academia, national governments, international organisations, private companies, regulatory officials and manufacturing sectors have roles to play. United for a common goal, rather than working alone, we can go farther and faster.

Vaccines are making an impact through vaccinations

This blog was originally published on Health Awareness on 21 June 2022.

The challenge is not getting hold of COVID-19 vaccines, it is getting vaccines into arms. The healthcare community is continuing to showcase the value of vaccines throughout one’s life course.

Over the last two years, the global healthcare community’s efforts in mounting a response to COVID-19 have materialised. This pandemic has brought home the power of vaccines to save lives and protect the vulnerable. Breakthrough new vaccines and a historic scale up of production and deployment have resulted in the largest mass vaccination campaign the world has ever seen.

We now have to redouble efforts to accelerate countries’ mobilisation and remove barriers to efficient distribution and administration of COVID-19 doses, as the risk perception with Omicron has changed.

Global pandemic response

The biopharmaceutical industry took up the challenge to develop, manufacture and deliver safe and effective tools to combat COVID-19, including vaccines. The strength of a robust innovation ecosystem – decades of partnerships, scientific exploration and investment – enabled the development of technologies such as mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccines, a process that would have taken years if started from scratch.

All companies were asked to ramp up manufacturing capacity to meet the global need, with 14 billion doses produced today. It is now publicly recognised that there is more supply than demand globally. The demand is going down, so much so that the Indian company, Serum Institute, halted its production last December, as Aspen in South Africa might have to do this month.

Getting vaccines into arms

But despite collective efforts, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines remain a challenge. Countries face implementation bottlenecks, including funding gaps, weak health systems and infrastructure, competing health priorities and COVID-19 fatigue. Vaccine hesitancy has also had a serious impact and this may affect other vaccination programmes.

Healthcare systems and infrastructure need to be stronger, financing for in-country delivery must be prioritised and the biopharmaceutical industry will continue to work with all stakeholders on three overarching priorities so that COVID-19 vaccines reach those who need them the most.

Vaccines for life

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that when we work together, we can achieve more than we ever thought possible. But there is more to be done. Vaccines can help protect you and your family from over 30 different infectious diseases – not just in childhood, but at every age and stage of life. Together, we can give vaccines the greatest chance to make an even greater impact on our health, our communities and our world.

How do we improve clinical trials post-pandemic?

This article featured in the Media Planet Clinical Trials campaign, available online and disseminated in print with the New Scientist.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot and yet we can still keep learning. While the pandemic has impacted everyone globally in ways that could never have been imagined, it has provided a spark for further exploration into how clinical trials should be improved, strengthened and better coordinated globally.

To ensure this happens, we must first acknowledge the critical role of well-designed clinical trials. During the pandemic, there were many examples of small, under-powered clinical trials that lacked coordination and did not deliver scientifically meaningful results.

Governments recognised this early on and helped lead the development of the G7 Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter to avoid proliferation of such trials in the future. When you are looking for hope in the form of prevention, treatment or cure, such outcomes can be tragic and/or disheartening at best.

Implementation of regulatory guidance

Broader implementation of ICH Good Clinical Practice (GCP), specifically E6 R3, is key here. This regulatory guidance is critical to future-proofing clinical trials and seeks to support their modernisation by installing a ‘quality by design’ mindset.

For those of us involved in clinical research (e.g., national regulatory authorities, academia, biopharmaceutical industry), ICH GCP may be the best way to promote greater capacity and capability building around the world.

Role of digitalisation

Secondly, we must look more extensively into the benefits of digitalisation and the use of virtual tools and methodologies within the context of clinical trials. Digitalisation can help clinical research to be more efficient and coordinated, principally via telemedicine, use of innovative health technologies, virtual healthcare visits, e-documents, etc.

Digitalisation can also support clinical researchers with the conduct of decentralised (or hybrid) clinical trials by increasing recruitment, reducing screening failures and allowing for remote monitoring of patients. Thus, offering the best guardianship of patients’ time and resources.

Benefitting those in greatest need

Finally, we need to ensure that the clinical trials we design benefit those who need it most. With a spotlight on patient centricity, best practices for greater diversity and inclusivity of under-served populations must underpin the development of all future clinical trials. The pandemic highlighted the ongoing disparity within clinical research and in the end, we must strive to make sure that these good principles become routine.

Bettering clinical research, in a more innovative and sustained fashion, has the potential to accomplish far greater results for global health that will be felt well beyond the present pandemic.

Vaccines can help make a better life possible for everyone

Vaccines are one of the most effective and cost-efficient medical technologies ever developed. Except for clean water, nothing has had a larger effect on global health than vaccines, especially for children.[1] Before COVID-19, even if vaccines saved millions of lives every year, they had become a routine and unremarkable part of life. Their benefits are so embedded in our lives that it is easy to take them for granted. But we must never forget how remarkable vaccines can be, from the benefits they can provide at every stage of life, to their future potential to stay ahead of global health threats.

The benefits of vaccination throughout life

Innovation in vaccines has led to the prevention of over 30 diseases, including malaria, pneumonia, Ebola and HPV-related cancers.

In recent decades, thanks to vaccines, many people have never had to worry about catching smallpox or fear paralysis caused by polio. Most recently, they have helped protect us and our families from COVID-19 by preventing serious illness and deaths, protecting our healthcare systems and frontline healthcare workers. COVID-19 vaccines allowed us to reconnect with those we love, reopening schools and our economies, and ultimately overcome the largest global pandemic in our lifetime.

Vaccines can provide benefit to people of all ages, at every stage of their lives. Vaccinated children are less likely to miss school or have long-term disabilities caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Adults are less likely to miss work due to illness, making them more likely to actively contribute to society for longer.[2] Furthermore, with the rapidly ageing population, vaccines are playing a key role to keep people healthy from adulthood to old age.

Widespread vaccination can also result in less hospital admissions. By helping alleviate the pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers, vaccines play a critical role in freeing up capacity so that patients with other chronic conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, can be treated.

Vaccines can also help slow the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) by preventing bacterial infections in the first place, reducing the need for antibiotics and slowing the emergence of ‘superbugs’, and help keep people safe.

The risks of low vaccination rates

While the world has been focused on COVID-19 vaccines, the disruptions to education and healthcare systems have meant that many people have not received the routine vaccines they need during the pandemic.[3] Data from the WHO and UNICEF found that 23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine vaccination services in 2020. Approximately 3.7 million more children compared to 2019.[4] 2020 could be the first time in 28 years that the world has seen a drop in yearly childhood vaccinations.[5]

To reverse this worrying trend, people of all ages should protect their health by catching up on vaccinations they may have missed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Conducting catch-up campaigns, restoring and strengthening routine immunization will be critical. Governments, funders, organizations on the ground, as well as our industry should exchange on best practices, and apply lessons learned from COVID-19 to strengthen health systems and reach more people with lifesaving and highly cost-effective vaccines.

The future potential of vaccines

In the past two years, we have seen major advances in science and new vaccine technologies. Together with the scientific community, we are working to improve existing vaccines to provide better and longer protection, creating new formulations, combining vaccines to make it easier to reach people.

We are developing new vaccines to help prevent from more known viruses but also rapid response platforms to develop vaccines against “Diseases X”, diseases for which we will know very little when they emerge. We are exploring new technologies to make vaccines more heat-stable, making them easier to transport and store.

We are reducing manufacturing complexities and developing new methods which will help us adapt and quickly expand capacities. And finally, we are also finding new ways to distribute vaccines more efficiently, addressing remaining roadblocks during the “last mile” to reach every child, adolescent or adult who needs to be vaccinated.

Today, there is a promising vaccine pipeline, with 260 new vaccines being developed to protect against several diseases and pathogens which lack effective vaccines, including HIV, Norovirus, Alzheimer’s disease, Lyme Disease, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and Group B streptococcus. On the horizon are vaccines for mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika or dengue.

By constantly improving how vaccines are made and distributed, it will be easier for everyone, everywhere to benefit from their protection and lower health inequities and to stay one step ahead of emerging threats, protect communities from fast-spreading outbreaks, and even avoid future pandemics.

A better life possible for everyone

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that when we work together, we can achieve more than we ever thought possible. But there is more to be done. Together we can give a boost to vaccines, making an even greater impact to our health, to our communities, and to our world.

On the occasion of World Immunization Week (24-30 April 2022), the global biopharmaceutical industry is launching #VaccinesForLife to celebrate the lives vaccines allow us to live and the promise they provide for the future. Learn more on the #TeamVaccines website.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2083746/

[2] https://www.abpi.org.uk/value-and-access/vaccines/economic-and-societal-impacts-of-vaccines/

[3] https://www.who.int/news/item/17-11-2021-global-leaders-call-for-cervical-cancer-elimination-on-day-of-action

[4] https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/covid-19-pandemic-leads-major-backsliding-childhood-vaccinations-new-who-unicef-data

[5] https://www.ifpma.org/resource-centre/call-to-action-on-routine-and-life-course-immunization-in-the-context-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/

The power of innovation: Malaria’s gamechanger

This op-ed was originally published for Media Planet’s Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases campaign on 25 April 2022.

We must make up ground lost in the fight against malaria during the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovation in vaccines and treatment offer hope for solutions.

From 2019 to 2020, there was a 12.4% increase in malaria deaths. Approximately two-thirds of these deaths were linked to COVID-19 disruptions, but pandemics cannot be an excuse for lost progress. If anything, COVID-19 has provided greater perspective and urgency to tackle the threat of malaria in endemic countries.

Development of groundbreaking malaria vaccine

Disruptions to malaria prevention, treatment and care keep people in endless cycles of poverty. Children in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the most deaths from malaria, are particularly vulnerable. New estimates suggest a child is dying nearly every minute from this disease.

The result of 30 years of research and development by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), PATH, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as a network of African research centres, the first malaria vaccine was developed. The vaccine could help save the lives of tens of thousands of African children below the age of five who die from malaria every year. Technologies developed for COVID-19, such as mRNA vaccines, offer hope for an even more effective vaccine.

As we’ve seen with COVID-19, vaccines are impactful only when they result in vaccinations. International programmes to roll out these vaccines, alongside existing preventative interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets and timely testing and treatment, can help reinvigorate a global response.

Responding to the crisis with novel therapies

New technologies that allow for once-a-week or single-dose treatment are advancing our arsenal for global malaria response. For instance, GSK and Medicines for Malaria Venture have developed a new formulation that allows one dose of tafenoquine to be dispersed and consumed in a glass of water. Novartis and Sanofi are working on fixed-dose combination therapies to address drug-resistant malaria and improve cost effectiveness.

As a consequence of the climate crisis, malaria can become a global health security threat, exposing people in new areas to this mosquito-borne parasite. Through continuous innovation, we can alter our readiness to absorb the impact of malaria in newly warmer places, both through protective vaccines and easier-to-use, effective malaria treatments.

We can end the COVID-19 pandemic, prepare for future pandemics and accelerate progress on longstanding epidemics like malaria. Innovation to develop and deploy new vaccines and treatments against malaria is a gamechanger in this shifting landscape.

Marie-Chantal Umunyana speaks to the strength of safe spaces in healthcare for women

This article was originally published on Africa Young Innovators for Health Award on 29 March 2022.

Marie-Chantal Umunyana joins IFPMA and HYPER‘s virtual discussion on: “The Importance of Diversity & Equal Opportunities in a Healthy R&D Environment – Workplace & Organizational Culture.”  The discussion convened both young and senior leaders to identify and present initiatives by the pharmaceutical industry linked to creating and sustaining communities of belonging amongst youth that deliver solutions to patients and reach underserved communities.

Marie-Chantal, founder of Umubyeyi Elevate and participant of the Women Innovators Incubator, was joined by: Laura Adams, Global Programme Manager, Young Health Programme, Plan International UK; Sharon Olmstead, Global Head, Regulatory & Development Policy, Novartis; Rocio Martinez Perez, Research and Development Project Coordinator, UCB; and Courtney Sunna, Global Community Investment & Philanthropy Manager, AstraZeneca, who moderated the event.

Leading the discussion from the lower- to middle-income countries’ (LMICs) perspective, Marie Chantal, highlighted the need to create safe spaces to encourage information exchange between women while providing psychological support. She went on to explain that the safe spaces created by Umubyeyi have helped soon-to-be mothers and mothers express themselves freely and share their real-life, personal experiences to help one another.

Marie-Chantal also spoke to the importance of leveraging technology to improve access to maternal health information, since those in LMICs face challenges in accessing healthcare. Marie-Chantal explained that Umubyeyi uses technology to ensure women have easier access to more information about their maternal and reproductive health. “We are making evidence-based health information accessible to people from trusted sources using social media and web applications.” She believes that, given technology is an integral part of all of our lives, it can be used to improve maternal health.

Sharon Olmstead, Global Head, Regulatory & Development Policy, Novartis, shared her views on the need for diversity in clinical trials and referred to how technology can be an enabler. “As Marie-Chantal discussed, technology and social media can be enablers, reaching patients more inclusively and in ways we haven’t previously considered.”

Marie-Chantal also called on the healthcare sector to do more to ensure that mothers can access the healthcare they need wherever they are in Africa. She explains, “There is a need for pharmaceutical companies to guarantee and ensure new technology and treatments are available globally? to address preventable causes of mortality.”

Speaking in support of safe spaces in a broader context, Laura Adams, Global Programme Manager, Young Health Programme, Plan International UK, further described safe spaces as those, “in which people can discuss their experiences and understand what the people who need that safe space will need to feel safe in that environment.”

“To create a safe space it is important to create this sense of belonging”’  added Rocio Martinez Perez, Research and Development Project Coordinator, UCB. “We have to make room for young talent who are born in the digital era. As a newcomer in pharma, I think change comes from everywhere. We need to make sure all voices are heard and everyone is represented”

Rocio also noted that her organization created two initiatives, called Guide Me and Explorer, to create a more welcoming environment for young people. . “Guide Me is a mentoring program for those in senior positions, while, in the Explorer program, you can work in a different department for three months to discover something you might like since we’re seeing less and less linear careers,” she noted.

In closing, Courtney Sunna, Global Community Investment & Philanthropy Manager, AstraZeneca, circled back to gender equity and the need to support more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “I know that young women have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, more likely to have disruptions to their education and less likely to access healthcare. As a result, they are less likely to enter the workforce, which can impact their careers and economic opportunities globally. So, let’s all support women in STEM.”

About HYPER

HYPER (Healthcare: Youth Perspectives. EmpoweRed) is a group dedicated to empowering, connecting, and mobilizing young leaders and future decision-makers in the life-science industry. Launched in 2020, HYPER focuses on areas of relevance for young professionals in the biopharmaceutical sector, from innovation to industry footprint to sustainability and supports the emergence of a new generation of industry leaders that can master core global health issues early on in their careers and help amplify industry messages.

About The Women Innovators Incubator

The Women Innovators Incubator is an initiative led by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) and Speak Up Africa to bridge the gap in women-led innovation in Africa and address the additional barriers they face in taking their business ideas from concept to implementation. The program aims to develop the scientific innovation and entrepreneurial capabilities of the beneficiaries so that they can take their innovations to the next level through financial support, business mentorship, media training and IPR advice.

About IFPMA

IFPMA represents research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations across the globe. Research-based pharmaceutical companies make a unique contribution to global health as innovators of lifesaving and life-changing medicines and vaccines, which improve millions of lives around the world. Based in Geneva, IFPMA has official relations with the United Nations and contributes industry expertise to help the global health community find solutions that improve global health.

The biopharmaceutical industry continues to innovate to find new and improved COVID-19 solutions

It’s been over two years since the biopharmaceutical industry committed to playing the greatest possible role in the global response to COVID-19

In that time, we have seen how one virus can disrupt all our lives, our daily routines, our education and health systems, our economies, and our world. We have also witnessed a historical effort by our industry and partners to develop and manufacture billions of COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Over 12 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been produced and more than 60 percent of the world’s population has received at least one dose. Together with our partners, we are working hard so that people can benefit from COVID-19 vaccines wherever they live in the world. We also continue to discover, develop and deliver new generations of vaccines that can provide longer lasting and stronger protection, and are easier to transport, store, and administer.

Treatments are also an important and integral part of COVID-19 mitigation strategies for those people who do contract COVID-19 and are at-risk. Our industry developed new innovative treatments that protect people from severe illness, lower hospitalizations, and save lives. By helping to lessen the pressure on healthcare systems, these treatments also help to ensure people with other diseases can get the care they need, when they need it.

As a science-driven industry that aims to address some of the world’s biggest healthcare challenges, the biopharmaceutical industry is uniquely positioned to respond to COVID-19. In the past two years, we have learned a lot, but our work is not done, we know we need to reach more people, we can do more and better. We will never stop learning and adapting to find innovative ways to meet the world’s public health needs. The biopharmaceutical industry is not standing still. We are #AlwaysInnovating, using the power of science to help us get ahead of this pandemic and be better prepared for future pandemics.

We’re contributing to the largest vaccination effort in history, using our skills and global manufacturing network to make billions of approved or authorized vaccines available to people wherever they live.

We are providing treatments with life-saving potential for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and new treatments that can be taken at home at the first signs of infection or after exposure to COVID-19.

We’re providing vaccines which help provide critical protection from COVID-19, to reduce pressure on hospitals and help minimize disruption to our daily lives and developing new manufacturing methods which will help us adapt and quickly expand capacity for new vaccines and future emergencies.

We’re making vaccines easier to transport, store and administer. We’re also developing new vaccines that could help protect against a broad range of possible COVID-19 variants, as well as vaccines against COVID-19 and other viruses in one dose.

We’re continually evolving our understanding of COVID-19 as the virus itself evolves. We are applying what we’ve learned from this pandemic to create new innovative and improved vaccines and treatments for a range of other diseases.

There is no single solution that will end the pandemic. It will take agility, persistence, innovative thinking, and hard work. We will continue to partner and collaborate within our own industry and with the scientific community, public health authorities, policy makers and regulatory bodies, patient groups and organizations working on the ground. We are determined to leave no stone unturned until everyone is safe from this virus.

What it takes to enable tech transfer partnerships

This blog was originally published in The Medicine Maker

Technology transfer partnerships have been the cornerstone in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling rapid scaling of health innovations but also raising new challenges. Now, we need long-term, sustainable national policies to ensure tech transfer continues to improve access to medical innovations.

Complexity is the name of the game when it comes to vaccine and drug development. From process to final product, manufacturers are faced with a series of technical challenges.

When a new health technology, like COVID-19 vaccines, needs to be scaled up, voluntary technology transfers play a pivotal role.  This is a process that shares a bundle of rights with a trusted partner to produce a vaccine or medicine. For the pharma industry, such a package can include the sharing of know-how, show-how, training of skilled human resources, organizational and procedural knowledge to operate technologies, and more.

From the outset of the pandemic, companies demonstrated how beneficial tech transfer can be. Groundbreaking collaborations resulted in around 358 voluntary partnerships for vaccine production – of which over 89 percent included technology transfer – helping to make possible the unprecedented production of over 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. Pharmaceutical companies were able to find trusted partners that met several rigorous criteria for tech transfer and had the ability to scale up. This is a testament to both their technical capacity, but also to the value partner countries placed on technology transfer as a key economic and development growth opportunity. It’s the reason why the partnerships are not in the thousands and with every potential manufacturer in the world.

To ensure effective technology transfer, the right infrastructure needs to be in place. In the recent past, there have been instances where deals have taken longer to materialize or have even failed – not because of the technical capability of licensees but because of the environment, policies, and lack of skilled labor in the region where licensees operate or are based. Infrastructural capabilities, such as access to consistent electricity, cold chain capacity, and water supply, need to be taken into consideration. Other elements, such as sufficient skilled human resources, high-volume demands, and the need for strong regulatory track records and timely processes, must also be factored in when striking such deals. All of these aspects help cement a tech transfer partnership and can set the speed at which the process will be completed.

But the transfer process is not as simple as sharing a vaccine “recipe” on a pen drive or in a tweet, as many critics of the pandemic response have suggested. It’s a strategy that countries, governments, and companies need to foster and pursue long term. However, there are certain indicators that ignite voluntary collaboration and a sustainable innovation ecosystem that promotes local talent and economic growth, as well as attract investors and skilled workers from other jurisdictions.

At IFPMA, we’ve recently released an updated perspective on the indicators needed to make technology transfer happen. It posits that emerging economies can enable a more dynamic and voluntary flow of pharmaceutical technology between innovators and local licensees if 10 main factors are in place:

  1. Stable rule of law
  2. Political will and transparent economic governance with policies in place that allow for partnerships
  3. A trusted partner adhering to high ethical and manufacturing standards
  4. Viable and accessible local market
  5. Appropriate capital markets
  6. Innovation-friendly environment with a robust intellectual property incentive system
  7. Access to information, from better documentation of available resources to the longer-term issue of addressing the complexity of the global knowledge market.
  8. Adherence to high regulatory standards – for example, governments require product registration and data submissions to demonstrate quality, safety, and efficacy
  9. A skilled workforce
  10. Clear and sustained economic development priorities.

This is not a wish list, but a framework that helps create the conditions that will allow us to tackle health challenges. Partnerships between academia and industry will spur the discovery of innovative solutions. We encourage policy planning to focus on strengthening capacity and advocate for appropriate strategies to facilitate technology transfer.

The biopharmaceutical industry is in the business of saving lives and has shown a willingness to work with different stakeholders to reach everyone, everywhere. We share a common agenda to get vaccines into arms today and to prepare for technology transfer that will foster enabling environments for health equity and future pandemic preparedness. Though technology transfer does not present the full map of what’s required for increased access to life-saving treatments for those in need, it must not be underestimated for the tool that it is – on its own and in thinking through other responses and health policy measures.