Global Strategy for TB Research and Innovation is adopted by WHO Member States

The Union welcomes the adoption of the global strategy for tuberculosis (TB) research and innovation by Member States of the World Health Organization (WHO) through a written silence procedure of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly last week.

The Union is pleased to note the strategy highlights research that is needs-driven, evidence-based, affordable, accessible, and that has increased focus on involving TB-affected communities in every stage of research.

Integrating the expectations, needs, interests and values of civil society into the research and development (R&D) process is something The Union puts into practice through its work. The STREAM trial puts community engagement at the heart of clinical research through the use of Community Advisory Boards (CABs), which play an important role in implementing community engagement by linking affected communities and trial staff, sharing community views on key implementation issues, and providing information about the prevention, screening and treatment of TB to affected communities.

The WHO strategy also promotes the sharing of data arising from publicly funded research, with the ultimate goal being that the public benefits from public investments in science. Dr Grania Brigden, Director of TB at The Union, said: “The benefits of data access and sharing has been proven during the COVID-19 pandemic and this approach should become the new ‘normal’ for all scientific research.” Throughout the pandemic, The Union has made available the latest resources, guidance and information in its COVID-19 toolkit.

Dr Brigden goes on to say: “The WHO strategy can only achieve its goal of developing and ensuring access to the tools required to end TB if there is continued and increased investment in TB R&D. We continue to fall short of the US$2 billion annual funding target set by the Stop TB Partnership and agreed at the United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Ending TB. Closing this financing gap is critical to delivering on the UN-HLM ambition and the End TB strategy.

“We have seen from the COVID-19 pandemic that there can be significant investments made in R&D where there is the political will and we must ensure that TB R&D funding does not become another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Under the leadership of WHO, the strategy was developed during the past two years through a consultative process with Member States. Last June, The Union, partners and UN Missions met in Geneva to discuss ways to ensure world leaders keep to the vital research and innovation commitments that were made at the UN HLM on Ending TB.

This year, at the 146th Session of the WHO Executive Board, The Union submitted an intervention on ending TB welcoming the WHO’s focus on research, but with additional suggestions relating to data and intellectual property sharing to encourage collaborative models for research, transparency in the amount of funding Member States provide, and collaborative mechanisms to coordinate TB R&D financing. Member States were also urged to outline concrete steps they will take to accelerate progress towards achieving the End TB Strategy goals.

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