Comment: From bright ideas to lives saved

Comment: From bright ideas to lives saved
Steve Davis, President and CEO, PATH. 
World Economic Forum Blog – Jan 25th 2014

We have less than two years to hold ourselves accountable to worldwide health and development goals set for 2015. As leaders from the private, public and nonprofit sectors convene at Davos, we must ask ourselves, “How can we do better?”

Collectively, we have made significant strides in improving health. Fewer young children are dying of preventable diseases – yet 18,000 children still die each day. We have nearly halved the number of women dying from complications due to pregnancy or childbirth – yet still, one woman dies every minute.

In the last decade, the global community has invested in one of the largest pipelines of life-saving technologies the world has ever seen. At PATH alone, the leading innovator in global health, we have more than 200 technologies in our pipeline, and we are also working with emerging-country vaccine suppliers from China and India to accelerate their innovations. From rapid diagnostic tests for malaria to affordable devices to prevent postpartum hemorrhage, many solutions exist, and others are on the horizon.

Yet, too often, the bright ideas fail to reach the people who need them most. One key approach – one that’s being discussed fervently this week at Davos – is creating partnerships that transcend sectors. To transform ideas into solutions that help millions of people, we need intentional collaboration between strange bedfellows who bring different, but complementary, resources.

In the quest for a stable supply of malaria treatments, for example, PATH gathered experts from academia, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry to develop the world’s first semisynthetic form of artemisinin for malaria treatment. Together, over nine years, we moved the product from an idea to large-scale industrial production. Our partner Sanofi is currently on track to produce enough artemisinin for approximately 150 million treatments a year. Consider the impact this will have on a disease that kills 660,000 people each year and costs Africa an estimated US$ 12 billion in lost productivity.

As conversations this week reflect, the expanded use of technology and increased civic participation around the world add exciting promise to these intentional collaborations by bringing fresh voices and new approaches to old challenges.

We have an unprecedented opportunity to solve long-standing problems by partnering with new allies, including developing countries who offer new sources for innovative solutions. So what can we do? Let’s connect the dots between the leaders convening here this week and the sectors they represent to make sure we seize this moment.