EB 136 Friday, January 30th: Discussion of Consultative Expert Working Group on Research Development-Financing and Coordination

Another matter considered during the Friday, January 30th session of the WHO Executive Board was the “Follow-up of the report on the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research Development-Financing and Coordination.” In addition to the general report on the CEWG, the EB also considered the Director General’s report on the CEWG “Health research and development demonstration projects.”

In a statement that was echoed by member states from other regions, Gambia, speaking on behalf of the AFRO Region, noted that there were not currently any demonstration projects from African institutions and stressed the need for this to be rectified, while also highlighting the importance for these projects to lead to safe and affordable development of drugs. The AFRO Region also asked the WHO to further support the pooled fund initiative as it relates to Type 2 and Type 3 diseases as well as Type 1 diseases as they effect developing countries.

Following the lengthy selection process for demonstration projects (for background read here, here, and here), the CEWG report on “Health research and development demonstration projects” stated that from the finally chosen projects, there were three projects that had been revised and further developed to the point of being considered active demonstration projects to be taken forward:

  • “The Visceral Leishmaniasis Global R&D and Access Initiative.” As there were two strong leishmaniasis proposals that advanced through the selection process, the WHO chose to combine the projects into one demonstration project. The final single project is jointly managed by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in cooperation with United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • “Multiplexed point-of-care test for acute febrile illness.” A project submitted by the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute in India.
  • “Development of a vaccine against schistosomiasis based on the recombinant Sm14 a member of the fatty acid binding protein: controlling transmission of a disease of poverty.” A project submitted by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil.

There was a project from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa that advanced very far in the demonstration project selection process but, as described in the DG’s report, “requires further improvement before it meets the requirements for qualifying as a demonstration project.”

Although several countries expressed their satisfaction with the criteria by which demonstration projects were considered (which included the incorporation of delinking the price of drugs from the costs of R&D), there was not much discussion of delinkage in the conversation on CEWG initiatives nor detailed discussion on what ways the selected projects incorporated delinkage. Maldives alone specifically mentioned delinkage, stating that the exploration of demonstration projects and the emphasis on delinkage was a good initiative on the part of the WHO.

Another major issued discussed regarding the measures of the CEWG, was the severe lack of funding. The United Kingdom and the United States, among others, called for new and nontraditional donors to step up and make donations to support the pooled fund, demonstration projects, and the Global Health Research and Development Observatory, while other countries also stressed the need for innovative funding mechanisms to support the initiatives.

A heartening result of the CEWG discussion, was the announcements by several member states of their pledges to fund various aspects of the CEWG initiatives. A summary of the donations in the order they were announced, follows:

  • Switzerland announced contributions of $4.2 million USD of non-targeted for funding of demonstration projects, $2.1 million USD for the design of a global fund for R&D and the continuation of a pilot process for demonstrations projects, and $40,000 USD to start the Global Health Research and Development Observatory.
  • Norway announced that it would provide 5 million Norwegian Krone (approximately $650,000 USD) in unmatched funding and will match lower and middle income country contributions up to another 5 million Norwegian Krone. All told, if fully matched, Norway pledged approximatly $1.3 million USD.
  • Brazil announced that it would provide $1 million in USD in support of the CEWG initiatives.

While the donation of more funds from member states is greatly welcomed, the WHO Secretariat highlighted that even with the new announcements of pledged contributions, the budget for the CEWG efforts is still $49 million USD short of its goal.

Claire Cassedy