The PDP+ Fund: Accelerating R&D in New Products for Diseases of Poverty

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This guest blog about innovative financing for global health was written by Holly Wong, vice president for public policy at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative; Dr. Mary Moran, director of health policy at The George Institute for International Health; and Dr. Paul Herrling, head of the Novartis Institutes for Developing World Medical Research. In addition to the effort described below, there are initiatives by governments and advocates to impose a bank transaction tax to finance global health programs. We encourage readers to share information and opinions on those proposals as well. 

The World Health Assembly in Geneva this week will serve as a backdrop to a meeting on designing a new financing mechanism for neglected disease R&D, including HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, that is attracting some of the leading players in the global health field.

Representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The George Institute for International Health, the Global Forum for Health Research, the Global Health Council, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), Novartis and the World Health Organization are confirmed to participate.

The public forum will explore a new financing concept developed jointly by IAVI, Novartis and The George Institute for International Health called the PDP+ Fund that would supplement current R&D funding to advance urgently needed technologies being developed by Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) and other research organizations to combat diseases of poverty.

New health interventions could dramatically change the global health landscape and spur economic development: A vaccine for dengue fever, a tropical disease that afflicts millions, could reduce mortality and morbidity by 82%; shorter TB regimens could significantly reduce the US$4 billion annually spent on health system infrastructure for TB treatments; and, an AIDS vaccine with 50% efficacy could prevent one million infections annually and 21 million deaths over 15 years.

The Fund emerged out of the WHO Expert Working Group (EWG) on R&D Financing, which was launched in 2008 to review and prioritize proposals for R&D financing and coordination. IAVI, Novartis and The George Institute for International Health independently submitted three separate proposals, but on the recommendation of the EWG to conduct further analysis of the proposals or some combination of them, a single concept incorporating the key elements of each was developed.

The Fund’s mission is to generate additional R&D funding that is predictable, flexible and long-term in order to speed the development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for diseases of poverty. The following core principles have been outlined:

  • To pool investment risks and uncertainties, the Fund will support PDPs working on a range of interventions for infectious diseases disproportionally affecting the developing world. Where no PDP exists for a particular disease and/or product, other not-for-profit projects could be supported.
  • The Fund will provide a central point to disburse funding across the multiple diseases and products covered by PDPs or other non-profit projects. 
  •  The Fund will have a diverse stream of funding sources such as donor contributions, bond financing, innovative financing (e.g. taxes, voluntary donations) and revenues from sales of fund-supported products.
  • The Fund will require pro-access policies on product pricing, intellectual property (IP) rights and licensing agreements as a condition of receiving funding to ensure maximum accessibility and affordability of fund-supported products in countries where the need is greatest.
  • Lean, transparent and inclusive Fund governance structures will maximize resource mobilization, efficiently allocate funds to priority R&D areas and coordinate management of global health R&D portfolios.
  • The Fund will centralize information on funding and product progress across a wide range of diseases, products and groups.

The concept is in the early design stage and there are many details yet to be worked out. But the enormous potential of the Fund to accelerate the development of new products for global health is generating considerable excitement and hope and we urge donors and policymakers to support this process designing a simple, efficient and effective PDP+ Fund to support today’s active R&D pipeline.

The meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 17th from 7-9 pm (CET) at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva. To attend, RSVP to Sarah Colesat at coless@ruderfinn.com or follow the meeting webcast at http://html.ebu.ch.edgesuite.net/composer/eurovision_live_webcast.html

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