New York global health researchers and industry leaders gathered Monday in Manhattan to discuss how global health research and development is fueling innovation and saving lives, not to mention funding jobs and companies in the state. Advocates are concerned about the future of U.S. global health investments given President Obama’s fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request to Congress, which includes no increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and would reduce overall global health spending which will affect research and development resources provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) made introductory remarks, in which she highlighted some of the impressive milestones that investments in global health by the U.S. and other global partners have achieved over the past few decades – including eliminating polio in all but three countries in the world, increasing life expectancy in many countries from 40 to 65 years, doubling child survival rates, and extending the lives of millions of people living with HIV/AIDS who previously would have faced certain death.
“And yet, over seven million people await access to HIV treatment, and nearly 10 million children die each year before their fifth birthday,” Lowey said, adding that tuberculosis kills someone every 25 seconds and malaria takes the lives of two children every minute in sub-Saharan Africa.
Investing in global health research and development, she said, is one way to address these ongoing health crises. For instance, the impact investing in global health has on U.S. national security. “Healthy mothers have healthy children which in turn lead to stronger families and communities. Open, healthy, functioning societies are at the heart of long-term global security, because they directly confront the conditions that give rise to radicalism and instability,” she said. She went on to allude to the groundbreaking HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) 052 trial, an NIH-funded study demonstrating that HIV infected persons on treatment are 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to their uninfected sexual partners. She said these developments make our global health work more effective, allowing us to save more lives and have a greater impact around the world.
Lowey said she proudly supported the nearly $8.2 billion devoted to global health programs in the FY 2012 budget, which included more than $30 billion for biomedical research at NIH, in her positions as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and a ranking member on the State & Foreign Operations Subcommittee. But she warned that these programs were vulnerable in upcoming budget battles on Capitol Hill.
“The House Majority’s decision to adopt a budget number this year that is substantially lower than the bipartisan level from last year’s Budget Control Act will mean deep cuts across a number of accounts, including the Global Health Initiative at State and USAID, the NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control,” Lowey said. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan would slash the number of NIH grants for research projects by more 16,000 over the next decade, she said, and eliminate funding for more than 13,000 researchers, students and teachers at the National Science Foundation in 2014 alone.
Global health commentator Laurie Garrett, the Research America! event moderator, said New York stands to gain when health investments are made. Home to pharmaceutical giants Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer, global product development feeds directly into jobs and economic growth in the state through these entities and the various local renowned public health research institutions. New York City alone is home to seven of the top 50 global health research institutions in the world, she said, and 80,000 people here hold jobs in the global health sector. In 2011 the state received $2 billion in NIH research grants, creating more than 28,000 jobs in the state, Garrett said.
In summarizing the global health landscape, Garrett underscored the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) budget is now less than it was in 1990, and also alluded to the recent tumult at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria resulting in the elimination of the 11th round of grant funding. Notably, the administration’s budget calls for a significant increase in U.S. support for the Global Fund, but proposes a deep cut for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as funding reductions in bilateral malaria and TB programs. The panelists discussed the increasing importance of product development partnerships – innovative public/private collaborations feeding the new drug, vaccine, and diagnostic pipelines. The panelists agreed that the fragility of global health spending in the U.S. budget and at institutions like the WHO and the Global Fund, will incite a growing reliance on these public/private partnerships to support a successful global health research and development agenda.