Working together is vital for innovation, country experiences show
Four experts from different countries with a mix of experiences in implementing innovations in health research shared a common position: research and innovation are important building blocks that need to be harmonized by various sectors. In a forum moderated by Dr. Manuel Dayrit, dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health and former Health Secretary of the Philippines, experts agreed that there should be a convergence of actions
to push health research forward to result in innovation.
“All sectors must work together, not just government, academia, civil society, and others,” concluded Dr. Dayrit. “And we have to find out-of-the-box solutions—create a space where all of these things need to happen.”
In Brazil, for example, Dr. Fabio Zicker, senior visiting professor from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, shared that major problems in health care, technology innovation, and architecture in the national system hampered the course of innovations in the health sector. To address the problem, Brazil took several steps, including fostering cooperation and concerted work of four ministries, government agencies, implementers, and funding agencies, including 64 universities and more than 250 medical schools.
This convergence resulted in several actions that drastically improved Brazil’s health system. Among the solutions implemented were the creation of networks for chronic diseases and health technology assessments, public-private partnership, national research agenda, and support systems
for health research. Dr. Dayrit observed that Brazil’s solution involved a strong connection between the academia and innovation.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the drug discovery project for malaria started with only one strategy at the University of Cape Town with only two people at the helm, as shared by Dr. Glaudina Loots, director of health innovation at the South African Department of Science and Technology. Loots noted that after six years, the project expanded to involve five institutions, with 100% funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and one identified clinical trial candidate.
With its drug discovery project for TB, the scenario has drastically changed. The project is now multidisciplinary involving a groundbreaking partnership between seven pharmaceutical companies and six research institutions, with 100% funding match still from BMGF. South Africa’s TB drug discovery project is, in fact, one of the largest in the world, giving the country a major global leadership role and the opportunity to develop major collaborations with global partners.