Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Reflections on the 2014 Global Health Product Development Forum

April 30, 2014

Last week, I kicked off the 2014 Global Health Product Development Forum by posing a challenge to the more than 500 participants who gathered in Seattle to talk about what we need to do – as a global network of partners – to accelerate the delivery of high-impact health innovations to those who need them most. I urged everyone to use the three-day meeting as an opportunity to get meaningful business done, and I’m thrilled to say that the results were overwhelming.

A survey conducted at the end of the meeting indicated that nearly all participants had an opportunity to advance their work through meetings with colleagues and partners.  Even more impressive, nearly half of participants reported five or more substantive meetings, and six in 10 said they made a new contact, learned about an innovative approach to product development, or advanced a new partnership or initiative. 

This year’s forum – and the many productive meetings that took place around it – give me confidence that we are making tremendous progress toward the goal of building an integrated global health product development network that is nimble, dynamic, and capable of leveraging the comparative strengths of each of its members.

During the forum’s closing session, my colleague Toni Hoover facilitated a rich discussion with senior leaders from various sectors – product development partners (PDPs), industry partners, funders, and research institutions. It was a fascinating conversation that underscored the opportunities and challenges for global health product developers in the decade ahead. Reflections from this discussion reinforced the key themes from this year’s forum – Building with Partners, Building the Pipeline and Building for People.

  • Building with Partners: As articulated at last year’s forum, reaching our goal of doubling the output of high-impact global health interventions will require a strengths-based network approach that leverages the capabilities and expertise of partners from multiple sectors across the product development lifecycle. We must continue to work together to build bridges and platforms that bring these strengths together to achieve maximum impact. This year’s meeting highlighted many of these cross-PDP and cross-sector partnerships in action, and I am excited to see more innovative collaborations and impact-focused partnerships in the year ahead.
  • Building the Pipeline: Both innovation and acceleration are critical levers for building a robust pipeline capable of delivering the impact we seek. Through innovative funding mechanisms and up-stream accelerator platforms we must continue to foster exploration and innovation to feed and bolster the pipeline. We must also work together to more quickly advance the development of candidates currently in development. Our challenge, the network’s challenge, is to find ways to both innovate and accelerate, striking the appropriate balance between early discovery and late-stage development. 

  • Building for People: The overarching theme of the meeting this year was Building for Impact, and the importance of beginning with the end in mind. We are rising to the task of addressing how we can accelerate the development and delivery of a new generation of products, with a user-centered mindset throughout, so that we can provide access to appropriate and affordable life-saving vaccines, drugs, and other health interventions.

To these themes I would like to add my own:  a focus on delivering impact, not just in the busy confines of hotel conference rooms, but through the everyday efforts and engagements that guide and define our work together. A truly nimble, dynamic, integrated and empowered network is one based on the exchange of ideas, information, and feedback.

I also believe that an effective network is energized and inspired by a shared passion for the work itself – a theme that I explored in a conversation with Ludovic Morlot, Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, during an evening event at the symphony’s Benaroya Hall. Our shared passion to develop and deliver life-saving products, our passion to develop new tools that can expand access to health and opportunity, is what unites us in a common vision and creates an environment that fosters collaboration, creativity, and a willingness to take risks. My hope is that we can mobilize this harmony of purpose to make incredible breakthroughs for global health in the decade ahead.

 

 
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