World Health Organization Executive Board to create new consultative expert working group on R&D Financing

Today the WHO is expected to take up the Report by the Secretariat on “the Establishment of a consultative expert working group on research and development: financing and coordination.” (link here).

The WHO has proposed a “short list” of 21 names for the new body. Among the surprises is the lack of anyone from India, and the inclusion of Paul Herrling. Herrling was nominated by Switzerland. While Herrling is well liked, he is also a high ranking official of Novartis, and is the author of a proposal that will be evaluated by the CEWG, asking for up to $10 billion to subsidize R&D on neglected diseases.

It is possible the new group will have its first meeting in March 2011, and attempt to finish its work by March 2012. Given the complexity of its work, it is an ambitious time table.

The work of the CEWG will be part of the WHO cluster on Innovation, Information, Evidence and Research, under the direction Assistant Director-General Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, who took over the cluster in October 2010. Earlier, Dr Kieny directed the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research since its inception in 2001. A major funder of the WHO work on vaccine research is the Gates Foundation. In the past, the Gates Foundation has opposed discussions at the WHO on a new biomedical R&D treaty, or the use of prizes to replace monopolies for the development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic devices. This may put Dr. Kieny in a difficult position, as the WHO balances the member states interest in new approaches to funding medical R&D with the advocacy and interest of the largest private funder of the WHO.

See update here.