In this guest post, Heather Ignatius, senior policy and advocacy officer at PATH, writes about the important role US agencies play in advancing global health technologies.
In the field of global health, partnerships are often a primary key to success. The complexities of health, policy, and product development are technically nuanced, but together with the US government, PATH and others are making great advances to adapt, develop, and introduce breakthrough technologies across the health spectrum.
To demonstrate how essential US government’s contributions have been—and will continue to be—in improving global health through the development and introduction of lifesaving technologies, we recently released three publications highlighting PATH’s work with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Department of Defense (DoD), and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
These collaborations complement the many other global health product development and introduction efforts spearheaded by other private- and public-sector partners. Together, these contributions to improving global health will not only benefit people in developing countries, but also US military personnel and US citizens traveling abroad. We hope that these examples inspire continued investment by the US government in global health research and development.
Developing innovative technologies in partnership with USAID
For more than 25 years, PATH has worked through the HealthTech program at USAID to identify health needs and then adapt, design, develop, and advance appropriate and affordable health technology solutions. Through the HealthTech program, PATH has invented, designed, developed, or co-developed 85 technologies that are tailored to low-resource settings and can be manufactured locally. Examples include diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, portable scales that help health workers screen newborns for low-birthweight status, the Uniject® injection system, and the SILCS diaphragm. HealthTech technologies are in use throughout the world through partnerships with the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and commercial collaborators.
Adapting and introducing diagnostic technologies for low-resource settings with HHS
With funding from the National Institutes of Health, PATH is advancing effective, low-cost, and easy-to-use diagnostic tools that can be used in low-resource settings to identify HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. These diagnostics improve people’s chances for a healthy recovery while enabling health care workers to better track outbreaks of diseases. Together, PATH and HHS have also worked to increase the availability, accessibility, and affordability of essential point-of-care diagnostic tests by assessing critical clinical needs, identifying innovative technologies, supporting clinical testing, and creating training programs.
Developing new vaccine technologies with DoD
In collaboration with the US Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), PATH is developing and testing new approaches for vaccines against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli and Shigella—two of the leading bacterial causes of diarrheal disease worldwide. PATH, WRAIR, and NMRC are collaborating on preclinical and clinical studies as well as manufacturing activities related to vaccine development. Additionally, PATH is working with NMRC, among other partners, to assess potential markets for low-cost and effective vaccines and to demonstrate the opportunity for industry investment in developing these vaccines.
With funding from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, PATH is developing temperature-stable vaccine formulations to support DoD product development efforts. These thermostable formulations will extend the shelf life of vaccines, making them ideal for storing and allowing them to be safely transported and stored for extended periods of time outside of the “cold chain” of proper refrigeration. Thermostable vaccines are especially important for remote areas of the world where limited or no electricity for temperature control makes it challenging to maintain vaccines’ potency.