PDPs show the value of purpose driven R&D

KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation looks back at a stimulating dialogue and sharing of good practices during the Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) event ‘Healthcare, Gender and Inclusive R&D: How can we do better for women and children?’ in The Hague. KNCV’s executive director Kitty van Weezenbeek was one of the panel members, emphasizing the crucial importance that new tools and products can be introduced, implemented and made accessible to all in need. “We can have all the tools in the world, without functioning health care systems, they are not going to work.”

The event was organized by the six Product Development Partnerships (DNDI, FIND, TB Alliance, IAVI, MMV and IPM), who are driving the development of tools to address the health needs prioritized and funded by the Dutch Government in the period 2016 – 2020. PDPs are effective in channeling investments to address diseases of poverty.  Multiple examples emerged in the discussion on the public-private partnership approach as well as PDP practices such as including a gender equity lens in the set-up of trials and addressing market access challenges from the start. Addressing the specific needs of neglected and marginalized populations such as women and children – whose needs are often left behind in market driven R&D – is one of the main focus areas of the PDPs.

Mette Gonggrijp – women’s rights and gender equality ambassador of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs – opened the PDP event. “Supporting PDPs is a smart investment”, she stated. The collaboration of public and private partners in PDPs help filling policy gaps left when relying solely on market dynamics for essential health and public health needs. Hans Hogerzeil – professor emeritus of Global Health at Groningen University and co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines – underlined that PDPs are an effective and cost-effective way of getting targeted results.

PDPs and the fight against TB

PDPs also contribute significantly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Ending the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2030 is one of them. TB diagnostics, treatment and prevention are addressed – with clear instance of success – through  the PDP funding. KNCV in this matter plays a crucial role in connecting the pipeline of newly developed tools with  the patients and health care systems that are going to benefit. Introduction and scale-up of innovations is the core of KNCV’s work.

A great example of this is the new BPaL regimen, developed by TB Alliance and being introduced in several countries in collaboration with KNCV. This regimen entails a shortening of the treatment period for people with extensive drug resistant TB from 20 to 6 months. Patients are gaining accelerated access to less toxic and far more effective treatments for (previously barely treatable) forms of drug resistant TB and  the treatment is more patient friendly and cheaper. Kitty van Weezenbeek: “This would not have happened if we had left it to the market. The market does not fail the market, but does fail the patients and the public health systems that need them desperately. ”

The importance of stigma reduction and digital health innovations were also discussed during the event, as ways to create conditions that make new tools more effective and reach all patients, including women and children. The latter requires that children are included in product profile design and trials.

Overall, speakers and panelists rendered strong arguments in support of purpose-driven R&D as facilitated through the PDP funding instrument. Going forward there are opportunities to further strengthen the PDPs in their focus on  the needs of women and children and other marginalized groups. PDPs serve an important social and global health purpose.