Invest in malaria and NTDs to fight future disease outbreaks

24 Apr 2022

Photo: James Roh Cotopaxi Foundation

On World Malaria Day, and ahead of the malaria & NTD summit in Kigali, Rwanda, it is important we recognise the role of strengthening health systems to prepare for the next global disease outbreak.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “global health” was often used with reference to low-and-middle-income countries. If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that we are all “global health”—North or South, microbes and particles connect us all, yet resources are unevenly distributed. 

This World Malaria Day is the perfect time to recognise that investments in combatting diseases that often occur amongst the poorest populations allow countries to build more resilient health systems. These systems can be deployed in response to the next global health emergency. Outbreaks are more likely to occur where health systems are fragile, and treatment and prevention tools are scarce. When financial incentives for health research are low or non-existent, such as in the context where malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) prosper, product development partnerships (PDPs) are a proven path to unlocking innovation. The PDP model leverages partners from the public and private sectors to innovate health tools where a single entity would be unable or unwilling to take on the investment.

Since their establishment around 20 years ago, a small community of 12 PDPs have delivered more than 65 new health technologies that have protected and saved the lives of more than 2.4 billion people. Highlights from two of these PDPs include the first new single-dose treatment to prevent malaria relapse in over 60 years, developed in partnership by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and GSK; and the first all-oral treatment for sleeping sickness, developed by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Sanofi and the National Sleeping Sickness Control Programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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