Speaker: Joanna Keenan
MSF supports a Blueprint for research and development proposed by WHO to accelerate the development of new vaccines and treatments for emerging infectious diseases with epidemic potential.
MSF believes that such tools should be regarded as ‘global public goods’. As a result, R&D efforts and access strategies need to be coordinated by a multilateral organisation that is held accountable to all Member States. WHO can fill that role and every effort should be made to align other initiatives on emerging infectious diseases with the Blueprint. WHO can evaluate risks, determine priorities, and establish characteristics of products we need, especially in resource-limited settings. WHO is also able to coordinate research efforts - particularly during emergencies - and monitor funding flows via its R&D observatory. Through TDR, WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, it can build the capacity of scientists in the developing world on the conduct of clinical trials with the highest standards.
Adequate funding of the Blueprint will be crucial. MSF recommends a pooling of contributions from Member States for prompt and flexible financing of research projects. Norms and financing mechanisms recommended by the Consultative Expert Working Group on R&D have the capacity to spur innovation and ensure that end-products are widely available and affordable. These include avoidance or removal of intellectual property barriers, and the separation of R&D costs from the price of end-products. CEWG principles should be embedded in the Blueprint. Subsequent projects could be integrated and financed within the mandate of the CEWG Pooled Fund hosted by TDR.
In the wake of unprecedented collaborations to fast-track development of new products for Ebola, the WHO proposal can foster collaborative research across national boundaries and between stakeholders, and accelerate the development of effective, affordable and appropriate tools against emerging biomedical threats.