20 November 2015 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the establishment of 15-member High-Level Panel on health technology innovation and access, in an effort to escalate investments in research and development for diseases where financial returns are not guaranteed.
The panel will be co-chaired by Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland, and Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana. In a statement, the UN chief said the panel’s eminent members are “well-respected individuals with a deep knowledge and understanding of the broad range of trade, public health, human rights and legal issues associated with access to treatment.”
The Secretary-General emphasized that there is an urgent need to ensure that everyone can access quality treatment at affordable costs, while also incentivizing innovation and the development of new technologies such as vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, in order to ensure healthy lives and promote the well-being of people of all ages, as set out in the recently adopted Agenda 30 and the Sustainable Development Goal 3.
Mr. Ban noted that at present, most research and development in vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tests are undertaken on the basis of financial potential rather than focused on the needs of the poorest and most marginalized communities.
He added that the recent Ebola crisis, which killed over 11,000 people in West Africa, highlighted the need to invest research and development of non-terminal diseases, including infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, the rising burden of non-communicable disease, and the affordability of both modern and traditional health technologies.
The Panel is expected to hold its first meeting in December 2015 and to engage in extensive consultations with stakeholders, where a set of recommendations will be presented to the Mr. Ban in June 2016.
Mr. Ban will then make the report available to the General Assembly and take any further action, as appropriate.