By Dipo Olowookere
United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Ambassador Deborah Birx, on April 25, approved PEPFAR’s $483 million Country Operational Plan 2017 (COP2017) budget for South Africa, an increase over 2016.
The COP2017 budget will support South Africa’s HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) programs through September 2018.
The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the American government’s initiative to help save the lives of those infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS around the world. Since 2004, PEPFAR has invested over $5.6 billion in South Africa’s response to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS and TB. This investment has saved the lives of millions of South Africans.
With this new funding allocation, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, through PEPFAR, will continue programs in support of South Africa’s HIV/AIDS and TB response under the recently launched 2017-2022 HIV, TB, and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) National Strategic Plan (NSP). An additional $51 million in funding to support South Africa’s voluntary male medical circumcision program may be available based upon program performance.
Speaking at the PEPFAR COP2017 Review, Dr Yogan Pillay, the National Department of Health’s Deputy Director General: HIV/AIDS, TB and Maternal, Child and Women’s Health said, “I wish to thank the US government for its continued support of our country’s response to the HIV and TB epidemics under its PEPFAR program.
“Given the scale of the challenges that we face, it is unlikely that the progress we have made would have been possible without its support, and neither will we be able to achieve the targets in the National Strategic Plan.” Senior U.S. and South African government health officials and civil society attended the session.
Ambassador Birx acknowledged South Africa’s leadership, commitment and substantial funding of the national HIV response, and highlighted the need for continued use of data, improved approaches, and rigorous program management.
South Africa funds more than 80% of its national HIV response, which currently provides lifesaving care and treatment to more than 3.7 million persons living with HIV (PLHIV). PEPFAR funding supports national and provincial programs focused on the 27 highest HIV-burdened districts in eight provinces. These 27 districts represent more than 80 percent of South Africa’s PLHIV.
From October 2017 through September 2018, PEPFAR will continue to assist South Africa in providing more than one million additional PLHIV with lifesaving treatment, for a total of 4.3 million on treatment in the 27 focus districts. These ambitious goals require the work and commitment of all stakeholders and reflect the goals of the NSP to have more than 90 percent of the estimated seven million South Africans on treatment.
Research Shows Interorganisational Deals Boost Drug Discovery, Innovation
By Adedapo Adesanya
In a recent study published in the journal Drug Discovery Today, a team of scientists at Ritsumeikan University in Japan analysed the changing trends in pharmaceutical industries to spotlight the role of interorganisational collaborations in promoting drug discovery and innovation.
Discovering new drugs has become increasingly rare for independent large pharmaceutical companies in recent times. With numbers showing that almost 60 per cent of new drugs are discovered through mergers and acquisitions and drug licensing.
Now, the university researchers shed light on the recent trends of spinouts from academia and investments in the US and Europe, foreshadowing a promising shift in the industry’s interorganisational deal networks to improve research and development productivity in the future.
“It is a challenging feat to launch a new drug in the market, given the low probability of success during the research and development (R&D) phase and the high costs involved. In recent times, industry trends in external innovation for drug discovery are rapidly changing. With an improved understanding of disease biology, decision-making can be more streamlined through the effective use of scientific information,” a statement made available to Business Post said.
Led by Associate Professor Kota Kodama of Ritsumeikan University, the team is uncovering how the trends in interorganisational deals in the pharmaceutical industry are changing to improve R&D productivity and drug discovery.
“The network structure of innovation creation in the pharmaceutical industry has changed with the increasing emergence of start-up companies spinning out from academia and research institutions as players in the source of innovation,” explains Dr Kodama, while discussing their investigations into these changing trends and the results of which were made available online on December 27, 2022, and published in volume 28 issue 3 of the journal Drug Discovery Today on March 1, 2023.
Their research suggests that the knowledge necessary for breakthrough innovation in drug discovery is more often than not obtained through alliance networks.
Over the past decade, large research-based pharmaceutical companies have used research collaborations, innovation incubators, academic centres of excellence, public-private partnerships, mergers and acquisitions (M&As), drug licensing, and corporate venture capital funds as typical methods for external innovation.
The researchers now aim to define the changes in the network structure and nature of such alliances that have occurred over the past decade to provide future strategic insights for industry and academic players involved in drug discovery.
Using data from the Cortellis Competitive Intelligence database, the researchers identified nearly 50,000 deals of various kinds related to pharmaceutical R&D across pharmaceutical, digital health software, animal drug, and medical device companies to uncover trends in the creation of new drugs for human use.
They also studied the trends of 13 of the largest pharmaceutical companies with annual revenues of more than $10 billion, who saw an improvement in their CAGR (compound annual growth rate) since 2015.
The researchers noticed that the rising CAGR correlated to a significant change in M&A-related deals after 2015, indicating that M&A-related deals drive revenue growth for large pharmaceutical companies.
Furthermore, the number of organizations involved in interorganisational deals has been increasing yearly from 2012 to 2021. Although the number of organizations involved and the number of deals may be increasing, the density of the deal networks is decreasing annually, suggesting that networks are becoming more non-cohesive.
The concentration of business relationships between organizations of certain areas in the network changed to dispersion around 2015, and new networks connecting different groups started to form after 2017.
These trends are an important illustration of how the industry landscape is gradually evolving away from the traditional network in which large pharmaceutical companies drove drug discovery output. Now, interorganisational deals among more diverse players have become active and are driving R&D productivity for startups in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
A clear increase in the number of academia-owned spinouts of advanced technology and expansion of investment in start-ups is a positive sign. The emergence of new chemical modalities, such as biologics, oligonucleotides, and peptides that differ from traditional small molecule drug discovery, indicate remarkable changes that have taken place over the past two decades.
The trend of increased financing for start-up companies in personalized drug development is beneficial for patent creation and will positively impact innovation creation in the coming years.
“The presence of academia to support the technologies of these start-ups is becoming very important, and government and private support and investment in this area are boosting innovation. Our study shows that such medium- and long-term support may ultimately benefit the health and well-being of humankind,” Dr Kodama noted.
Nigeria’s Maternal Mortality Ratio Now 814 per 100,000—Ogunrinde
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) has said that the nation is losing its medical personnel to better-organised global settings, leaving the remaining healthcare workers in government-owned hospitals to be overstretched.
The National President of PAN, Dr Olufemi Ogunrinde, said at the opening ceremony of the association’s four-day annual general meeting and scientific conference in Akure themed Optimising Child Healthcare In Nigeria Despite Current Socio-Economic Challenges, noting that “available data shows that the country has less than one doctor to 3,000 patients, while there are 1.5 nurses to 1,000 patients.”
Dr Ogunrinde said Nigeria’s maternal mortality ratio is now 814 per 100,000 “and is closely linked to adverse neonatal outcomes with pervasive poverty and the stranglehold of communicable diseases.
“We are almost at the halfway point, at least in terms of time, to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Despite our abundant quality human and natural resources, we have, as a nation, continued to make slow progress in actualising the Sustainable Development Goals, especially as pertain to our children and the youths.
“This has affected us so much that our country has continued to fare poorly in virtually all indices of health.
“Yes, we have made some gains in the health sector over the past few years, but we have had the unfortunate title of “the poverty capital of the world” bestowed on us.
“Our under-five mortality rate continues to be in the three-digit range at 104 per 1,000 live births, and infant mortality fares better at 70 per 1,000 live births.
“Our neonatal mortality and maternal mortality rates have refused to decline significantly over the last decade, with neonatal mortality stagnating at around 35 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2009, it was 38,” he said.
Borno, WHO Declare End to Four-Month Cholera Outbreak
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Borno State government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have declared an end to a four-month cholera outbreak that killed almost 400 people in the Northeastern Nigerian state.
Within the period that started from September 17 to December 23, 2022, the state recorded 12,496 confirmed cases with 394 deaths (confirmed 288, suspected 106) from 17 out of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
The State Director of Public Health, Dr Goni Abba, says the announcement follows the successive decline in cases below the emergency threshold and an epidemiological review carried out in collaboration with WHO.
Given the epidemiology of cholera in Nigeria, this does not mean that new cases of the disease would not be detected in the state as the year goes by.
Dr Abba, however, reiterates the state’s commitment to ensuring a reduction in cholera deaths through vaccination, strengthened disease surveillance, early detection, and appropriate treatment.
He expressed gratitude to WHO and other partners that collaborated with Borno state in managing the cholera outbreak from when it was confirmed and reported till it was declared over.
“I would like to appreciate WHO technical officers for their leadership and guidance in containing the outbreak. Although the emergency phase is over, I appeal to all health partners to work in synergy to build a sustainable health response that will save lives,” he said.
Furthermore, the WHO Northeast Emergency Manager, Dr Beatrice Muraguri, mentioned that the WHO technical officers had been part of the cholera emergency response since the first cases were reported.
According to her, cholera is one of the fatal endemic diseases ravaging the lives of the most vulnerable people, and the prompt cholera coordination by the Borno state government yielded a viable result.
“The outbreak was declared over after there were no cases reported following weeks of heightened surveillance in the affected LGAs. This provides an opportunity to review lessons learned and strengthen our public health preparedness, detection, surveillance, and response for the upcoming rainy season,” she said.
WHO added that it would continue to work towards the 2030-Global Roadmap for Ending Cholera by providing technical guidance to the state government and preparing preposition kits to avert cholera outbreaks from occurring.
To contain the outbreak, WHO supported Borno State by donating 85 foldable beds for emergency treatments, led the coordination of health partners during the outbreak response, provided life-saving intervention by strengthening the capacity of 516 healthcare workers to improve the surveillance system, raising public awareness through risk communication and community engagement which contributed to early reporting of cases and management across the hotspots LGAs.
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