Tag Archives: Massachusetts

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Does Congress care if Nobel laureates of the future are put at risk?

Dear Research Advocate:

Like most Americans, we are alarmed by the ongoing government shutdown. Since the shutdown began, I have been in Georgia, Massachusetts and Ohio, speaking to business and academic leaders, state and local elected officials, philanthropic leaders, and working scientists. Everyone is outraged! Clearly, biomedical and health research — already compromised via sequestration — is not the only priority placed at risk by the impasse, but it is a critical one. From limiting access to clinical trials to undermining the ability to protect our food supply or investigate disease outbreaks, Americans are put at unnecessary risk when government employees are furloughed. We sent letters at the end of last week to Members of Congress and the president, urging action. We received responses from offices on both sides of the aisle: Many spoke passionately of their support for medical research; some hewed the party line; others lamented the budget impasse.

We are doing everything we can to keep the spotlight on the damage done to medical and health research when the government is shut down. When the public and its policy makers look back on the 2013 shutdown, we want them to remember which government functions most tellingly exemplified the cost — fiscal and societal — our nation incurs when the ability to function is derailed. Continue reading →

Advertisements

Importance of Affordable Diagnostics

An article in the most recent issue of The Scientist highlighted the importance of affordable diagnostics for global health. Although scientific advances have improved treatment options for many global diseases, a lack of effective, low-cost diagnostics hinders the health of many in the developing world. For example, medicines to treat HIV and tuberculosis have been life-saving for many individuals, but they can cause liver damage and patients on these medications must be monitored. However, the primary test for liver damage requires expensive equipment that is simply not available in low-income countries. To solve this problem, a Massachusetts biotech company, Diagnostics For All, developed a 10 cent paper-based test that can diagnose liver damage with a single drop of blood.

Other U.S.-based companies are working on similar low-cost diagnostics. In Texas, Global BioDiagnostics Corp is developing a more effective test for tuberculosis that will cost just $5. Both of these projects are excellent models for incorporating the idea of access into the research process and designing products that can actually be utilized in low-resource settings. However, there is often not enough money for companies to develop these kinds of products. In fact, a principal investigator at PATH says that “the problem [with low-cost diagnostics] is almost always funding.” Therefore, it is crucial to increase funding for affordable diagnostics. Not only would increased investment support these U.S.-based companies, but the end products could truly transform health care in the developing world.

Update: Another article, published in The Scientist on January 10, also addresses the urgent need for better diagnostics in resource-limited countries. In addition to making diagnostics more affordable, truly successful new diagnostics must also be “sensitive, specific, user-friendly, rapid, equipment-free and deliverable” and these considerations must be built into the R&D process. Overcoming these research challenges hinges not only on additional funding, but collaboration between research companies, the healthcare industry and local governments. Several Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) are leading the charge in these kinds of innovative collaborations. For example, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a PDP based in Geneva, Switzerland, is working with manufacturers, health organizations and ministries of health and developing diagnostics from the initial design to the operational research phase to determine the diagnostic’s efficacy in a low resource setting. The importance of these kinds of new tests, which will result in more appropriate treatment plans that can save lives and money, cannot be overlooked.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern