By Russell Medford, MD, PhD, Managing Partner, Salutramed Group
Georgia has a remarkable number of internationally recognized, top-tier organizations working in global health from the government, academic, non-profit, and private sectors. These organizations are helping to end diseases and improve health and well-being for people in Georgia, nationally, and abroad. Collectively, these organizations have a significant economic impact on both metro Atlanta and the state that likely exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.
Georgia has the potential to have an even greater impact on global health through leveraging the collective strength of the Georgia-based organizations that contribute to the global health mission. Collaboration is absolutely critical in global health. The problems are far too large and costly for any one organization to solve on its own.
A multi-sector group of more than 30 stakeholders is currently developing an alliance of Georgia’s global health organizations to provide a framework for collaboration within the sector that will be key to its development. This alliance would not only educate policy makers and the broader community about the importance of global health research and programs, but also provide a mechanism for the creation of new partnerships between sectors, including government, non-profits, academic institutions, and private industry.
One of the priorities of an alliance of Georgia’s global health organizations will be to map the sector. This will help build an identity for Georgia’s global health sector and provide a vital resource for identifying new partnership opportunities. A mapping also would also quantify the impact of Georgia’s global health sector, as well as identify business opportunities for Georgia and out-of-state companies in global health. These metrics would allow for better promotion by showing the health and economic impact of the global health sector on Georgia and around the world.
For Georgia, an alliance would have benefits across multiple sectors, including the life sciences where a number of Georgia companies are working to “do well by doing good.” These mission-driven companies have developed products to improve health and well-being, but they lack the expertise or resources to bring them to scale or get them approved. To succeed, they have to collaborate with organizations from other sectors working in global health.
One of these companies is LivFul that has developed AKIVA (formerly known as CleanOFF), an enhanced mosquito repellant and antiseptic wipe that could help reduce malaria transmission in developing countries. To determine how to get its product to the people who need it, the company has been trying to forge partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Georgia that have malaria expertise and experience working in countries where the disease is endemic. “We’ve had to do a lot of work to find these NGOs,” said LivFul President Andy Mahler. “An alliance could help us identify relevant Georgia organizations working in malaria and bring us together with them.”
GeoVax is another Georgia company that sees significant value in a global health alliance. The Smyrna-based company has developed a promising HIV vaccine that is poised to move into phase 2b clinical trials. At least $25-50 million, however, will be needed to fund the trial. GeoVax has been actively seeking philanthropic and governmental support, but they have yet to raise enough money to get the trial started. “There’s a huge global need for an HIV vaccine,” said GeoVax CEO Robert McNally, PhD. “Even with a promising candidate, it’s very expensive to conduct a clinical trial. We really need a Georgia-based group that can help advocate for the global health sector with foundations and other potential funders.”
An alliance of Georgia’s global health organizations is expected to play a strong advocacy role for the global health sector by articulating the value of this sector, shaping public policy that’s favorable to its growth and development, and building effective national and international partnerships with sister organizations such as the Washington (Seattle) Global Health Alliance. While providing a framework for collaboration, a Georgia alliance will also help organizations work better together and aid in identifying traditional and non-traditional sources of funding.
An alliance of Georgia’s global health organizations is crucial for the state to enhance its reputation and recognition as a global health hub that leads the country and the world with innovative models of collaboration, funding, and finance to solve global health problems.