Overcoming the world’s deadliest health threats requires “fore-SIGHT”
By Jamie Bay Nishi, Executive Director, Global Health Technologies Coalition
The COVID-19 pandemic has awoken many to the potential of global health crises to cause human suffering and devastate economies. Similarly, the global response to the pandemic has shown us how quickly health technology innovations like drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics can be developed when adequate resources, political will, and partnerships are brought to bear and how critical those technologies are to combating health threats. In addition to COVID-19, there remains a wide variety of enduring and emerging global health crises that require new health technologies to mount strong responses.
As an advocacy organization of more than 45 members from various sectors, the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) works to advance US and multilateral policies that support research and development (R&D) aimed at accelerating the creation of new tools that will advance the global responses to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, epidemic preparedness, maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases, antimicrobial resistance, emerging infectious diseases, and more. As such, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to address the major gaps in technologies, innovation, and funding across disease and health areas.
One of the most important ways to help bridge these gaps is to grow the funding available to the product developers who are advancing innovative and transformative health technologies. To this end, a particularly exciting proposal that we have spearheaded is a new flexible, catalytic fund, the Supporting Innovative Global Health Technologies (SIGHT) Fund, to be housed within the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Global Health Bureau. This US$250 million disease-agnostic fund would be additive and not come at the expense of any existing programs. The fund would be leveraged to expand the development of new global health technologies designed for the communities USAID serves, which are predominantly in low-income and low-resource settings, and enable the agency to continue its long and distinguished history of supporting health R&D, which has led to the development of breakthrough health technologies that have saved countless lives and improved global health equity.
Why is GHTC pushing to create a fund like this at USAID? USAID is the primary US agency that sponsors the late-stage development of new health technologies designed for low-resource settings. GHTC conducted a nonpartisan analysis, which found that even though total global health spending at USAID has increased, the small proportion of funding that the agency devotes to R&D has been in steady decline since 2006, despite persistent and wide innovation gaps.
Current budget constraints and an increasing number of priorities leave USAID leaders to decide between supporting health programs with near-term impact and supporting the development of innovative technologies that could accelerate progress and reduce costs in the longer term. While focusing on the former can be understandable in the short term, it is critical that we both invest in making impact today and work toward developing the breakthrough technologies of tomorrow that can help fully eradicate major health threats and drivers of poverty.
Additionally, funding for health R&D at USAID is currently siloed by health area, limiting the agency’s ability to support the development of multipurpose products or the development of products needed during health emergencies.
As a new, disease-agnostic funding source, the SIGHT Fund would supplement ongoing research programs and strengthen coordination within USAID while reducing competition between near-term needs and innovation for the future. It would also give USAID additional resources to form stronger partnerships with other US agencies and stakeholders around the world. Ultimately, the SIGHT Fund would ensure that more innovative global health technologies cross the finish line and reach the people who need them most.
To join the diverse group of global health organizations already supporting the campaign for the SIGHT Fund, visit our website for more information and share your support on social media.
Global Health Technologies Coalition is a member of The Center for Global Health Innovation which exists to advance global health equity by promoting and facilitating collaboration amongst business, academia, non-profits and government organizations and linking them with partners in the US and other countries to drive impactful innovation.