President Obama launched the Global Health Initiative in May 2009 to introduce an integrated approach to the government's investments in global health. The initiative involves programs of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), PEPFAR, and the Peace Corps, among other agencies. Innovation and development are key components of the initiative's and the administration's goals. BioPharm International spoke with Amie Batson, appointed by Obama to lead USAID's role in the initiative, about progress thus far and plans forward.
BioPharm: Why are innovation and development such a big push now compared with past years?
Batson: At USAID, we realize the benefits of investing in innovation for global health go well beyond improvements in health. Some of the greatest advances in development have come from extending the reach of innovative breakthroughs to those who lack access health facilities. We are looking to build stronger partnerships with the development and scientific communities to support the creative thinkers who are developing the next generation of health technologies capable of reaching more people at reduced costs to maximize impact.USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah has stated on several occasions that the largest opportunities to improve human health and the human condition do not lie in optimizing services to the 10–20 % of people in the developing world who have access to world-class health facilities. They lie in extending our reach to the 80–90% of people who do not.
BioPharm: What are some examples that have come about from the initiative to date?
Batson: [In 2011], at the Bill and Melinda Gates Malaria Forum in Seattle, USAID welcomed the initial news of the Phase 3 efficacy trial that confirmed the RTS,S malaria vaccine is safe and effective, and could eventually add to our present package of malaria control interventions saving more lives among young children in Africa.
In 2010, USAID proudly announced the first-ever proof of concept that a microbicide gel can effectively and safely reduce the transmission of HIV from men to vulnerable women, placing the power of HIV prevention in the hands of women.
The Global Alliance for TB Drug development is bringing a new drug combination to Phase III trials that could cut the duration of treatment by half and help overcome MDR-TB.
With each advancement, we come closer to delivering more effective aid at a lower cost. In tough economic climates like this one, the question we should all be asking is what tangible benefits we will see for each dollar spent. There is no question that investing in the health technologies of tomorrow will reap incredible returns on our original investment, and in lives and money saved.
BioPharm: USAID Administrator Shah has spoken about how the agency is trying to improve its relationship with the private industry to make communication easier and less bureaucratic. What is USAID looking to do in this regard? What types of new partnerships is the agency forming?
Batson: Cultivating a productive investment environment will require partnerships with a range of stakeholders in donor and host countries, including the private sector, civil society organizations, research institutions, foundations, and emerging and traditional donors. Our partnerships should reflect new models such as South–South and trilateral cooperation, and include meaningful roles for civil society and the private sector.
Leveraging the collective resources of partners through public–private partnerships allows the development community to capitalize on opportunities to extend the reach and depth of our programs. USAID's Global Development Alliance (GDA) is a premiere model for public–private partnerships, helping to significantly expand and deepen the impact of development assistance by linking US foreign assistance with the resources, expertise, and creativity of private sector partners. Since 2001, USAID has formed more than 900 alliances with over 1,700 distinct partners to leverage more than $9 billion in combined public and private resources. Across industry and sector, USAID is working in partnership with both global and local corporations to increase our reach and the effectiveness of development projects.