Industry philanthropists accelerate global health and equity impact

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The Novo Nordisk Foundation, Wellcome, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a new partnership to support critical scientific research and development (R&D) for global health.

The partnership is focused on supporting science and innovation to advance solutions that are accessible and affordable to people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The three-year initiative was announced at the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Global Science Summit in Denmark, where the organisations each committed US$100 million, for a total of US$300 million. Initial funding will support solutions to address the health impacts of climate change; infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance (AMR); and greater understanding of the interplay between nutrition, immunity, disease, and developmental outcomes.

“By pooling the vast experience and unique expertise of each organisation – across research, technology, innovation, and enterprise – we can make advances that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” said Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, CEO, Novo Nordisk Foundation. “I am particularly excited about the chance to break down barriers between often isolated areas of work – between cardiometabolic and infectious diseases, or between scientific discovery and delivery of solutions, for example – and support the development of truly innovative solutions that can improve, and save, lives.”

Focus areas of the collaboration

The initial three areas of this collaboration include:

  1. Climate/sustainability: Advancing climate data, sustainable agriculture, and food systems. To better protect people globally from the devastating effects of climate change on health, solutions that draw across climate, health, and agricultural science will be needed. This initiative will help drive deeper understanding of the impacts of climate change, develop novel solutions, and strengthen available data to support environmental sustainability, build food system resilience, and protect the health of vulnerable populations around the world.
  2. Infectious diseases: Addressing AMR, advancing disease surveillance, and developing vaccines for respiratory infections. As new pathogens emerge, persistent threats like tuberculosis remain, and the prevalence of AMR increases, infectious diseases continue to pose a significant threat to countries and regions around the world. New advances in detection and the development of vaccines and other tools can help reduce the burden of disease in LMICs and prevent outbreaks from turning into global crises.
  3. Interactions: Understanding the interplay between nutrition, immunity, infectious diseases, cardiometabolic and other noncommunicable diseases, and developmental outcomes. Advances in nutritional science and our understanding of the microbiome and immunology create an opportunity to solve for the effects that over- and under- nutrition have on all aspects of health and development, including the risk and severity of cardiometabolic and infectious diseases.

The new funding will also include direct support for researchers and institutions based in low- and middle- income settings, including resources to advance locally relevant research agendas, strengthen R&D capacities, and scale equitable access to existing tools and technologies.

“The most effective solutions to pressing challenges often emerge from the very communities they affect,” said Dr Catherine Kyobutungi, Executive Director of the African Population and Health Research Center, a leading scientific research institution. “I’m encouraged that this new partnership seeks to unlock novel ideas and support the scientists working directly with the communities that stand to benefit the most.”

Attention for global health and development

In recent years, new technologies, scientific breakthroughs, and a global pandemic have helped accelerate the pace of innovation. Health workers, governments, and global alliances have shown how collective action can transform progress to eliminate diseases, extend life expectancies, and lift generations out of poverty. But funding and attention for global health and development is faltering, putting progress at risk. Debt crises are forcing governments to cut funding for essential health programmes; climate change and conflict are shattering communities; and progress to protect lives from diseases known and unknown is under threat. Across all these challenges, it is the world’s poorest who are most affected.

“We face huge challenges to protecting and improving physical and mental health, compounded by vast inequities globally,” said John-Arne Røttingen, CEO of Wellcome. “Solutions will start in science. We’ve seen this throughout history, and we’ve lived first-hand through incredible advances to save and improve lives. In today’s complex world, health challenges increasingly overlap. We need global collaboration and cooperation more than ever to build healthier futures, and for society to thrive. I look forward to seeing the exciting, innovative research that will come as a result of this partnership. By partnering with the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Gates Foundation, we can raise ambition, and combine resources and networks to find new ways to advance global health research—especially for those with greatest need.”

The Novo Nordisk Foundation, Wellcome, and the Gates Foundation have recognised that while philanthropy has an important role to play, it cannot be achieved alone, and reportedly aims to explore opportunities to expand this effort to include both public and private partners, as well as engaging other philanthropic partners.

“We’re on the cusp of so many scientific breakthroughs in agriculture, health, and nutrition, and with the right support these innovations will save and improve lives around the world,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Every sector has a critical role to play, and we hope this collaboration opens the door for other funders and partners to contribute to scaling up existing innovations and developing the tools of tomorrow.”

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