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July 22, 2022

GHTC welcomes the recent addition of a specific indicator to measure research and development (R&D) capacity in the third edition of the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) tool—the instrument countries use to evaluate their health preparedness capabilities and compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR), which govern countries’ obligations in handling public health threats. This is a significant addition, as it marks the first time R&D capacity has been explicitly factored into the JEE as a key measure of a country’s health preparedness.  

As we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of regionally distributed R&D and manufacturing capacities contributed to gross inequities in the global response, as regions with the strongest ability to develop medical countermeasures prioritized access for their populations while others were left scrambling to try to build their capabilities in real time. GHTC has for many years been calling for measures of R&D readiness to be formally integrated into the IHR and JEE, and we are pleased to see our advocacy efforts have contributed to this important update. We believe that the revised tool, and its inclusion of R&D, will ultimately improve the quality of assessment of countries’ capacities for timely detection, prevention, and effective response to public health emergencies.

While the incorporation of an R&D-specific indicator is an important first step toward strengthening R&D capacity globally, GHTC is disappointed that the update has not gone further in comprehensively measuring the multitude of capabilities that are part of R&D readiness. The R&D indicator metrics have an insufficient focus on product development, and don’t measure important elements such as clinical trial, pharmacovigilance, and manufacturing capacity for various types of medical countermeasures, and we would have liked to see those incorporated into the new R&D indicator or elevated somewhere within the updated tool. While there are other separate indicators for surveillance and laboratory systems, they don’t interlink enough to provide countries with a comprehensive understanding of their national R&D capacity.

As countries move to utilize this updated tool, GHTC will continue to work with partners and leverage platforms like the Global Health Security Agenda to push for an even more comprehensive R&D capacity assessment and strive to build a more equity-driven framework for prevention and response to future pandemic threats.