As 2014 gets into full swing, the GHTC is looking ahead to many exciting developments on both the global health research and development (R&D) and policy landscapes:
- A step in the right direction: Policymakers in Congress recently passed both a budget deal for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and FY 2015, as well as a final appropriations package for FY 2014. The package included mixed results for global health research, however the compromise may hallmark a step towards a more “normal” appropriations process for FY 2015. We’ll be watching to see if policymakers boost support for the accounts—like those at the National Institutes of Health—that were hammered by the shutdown and budget sequester.
- Progress towards new malaria tools: In late 2013, GHTC member Medicines for Malaria Ventures received expedited regulatory approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to move treatment candidate tafenoquine into Phase III trials. And, the most recent clinical trial results of the RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate, released last year by partners PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), have spurred excitement that the vaccine may be WHO-approved by 2015. To start the process, GSK announced plans to submit a regulatory application through the European Medicines Agency later this year.
- 21st Century Global Health Technology Act: Now that Congress has finalized its FY 2014 budget and moved on to other priorities, at the top of our list is the 21st Century Global Health Technology Act. The legislation was introduced in April of 2013 in the House of Representatives by Reps. Albio Sires (D-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and boosts global health R&D programming at the US Agency for International Development. Rumors are a companion Senate version is coming very soon, so stay tuned!
- R&D takes the stage at WHO: The World Health Organization (WHO) has made some progress in implementing the health R&D resolution it passed in 2013—including reviewing proposals for demonstration projects aimed at promoting R&D for medical products. The World Health Assembly will have eight finalists to choose from at its meeting this May.
- Horizon 2020 begins: In late 2013, the European Union approved €80 billion in funding for Horizon 2020—the European Parliament’s framework for research and innovation. This represents an increase in funding compared with previous years, and includes an emphasis on public-private partnerships for research. It will be interesting to see how this program affects the global health R&D landscape.
- State of the Union: This time last year, we were anticipating the start of President Obama’s 2nd term, and what shifts in agency and congressional leadership would mean for US global health research programs. The 2012 and 2013 State of the Union addresses emphasized harnessing innovation to make progress in health, education, and other areas. We’ll be watching this Tuesday night to see how the President plans to build on progress made in the remainder of his term.
- A new era for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: In other Administration news, Dr. Deborah Birx was recently nominated to be the new US Global AIDS Coordinator. Dr. Birx currently heads the Global HIV/AIDS program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and previously ran the Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Department of Defense. We’re excited to see a leader in global health research take the reins of one of the US government’s most important global health programs. Pending her confirmation, it will be intriguing to see where Dr. Birx takes the agency, and how research for new global health tools will play a role.
- All health is global: Speaking of the CDC, two of the five most pressing health priorities that CDC’s Director Dr. Tom Frieden identified in a recent interview involve big impacts in global health research: eradicating polio and combating disease that originates outside of the United States.
Between new research advancements and policy progress, there is clearly a lot we’re excited about for 2014. What new developments in global health R&D are you looking forward to?
Ashley Bennett is GHTC’s policy officer.