Improving Human Health through Scientific Discovery

Saturday, 15 February 2014
Acapulco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Gary J. Nabel , Sanofi, Cambridge, MA
Scientific discovery provides common ground for collaborations that extend across international borders and offers unprecedented opportunities to improve global health.  Through basic research, the international research community has developed major therapeutic advances against such diseases as AIDS and cancer.  In AIDS, for example, molecular therapies have permitted infected individuals to expect a normal life span and enabled interventions that protect against transmission of HIV-1, including early testing and treatment [1] and mother-child chemoprophylaxis [2].  Properly implemented, such measures could allow future generations to be free of AIDS.  Such improvements illustrate the universal value of health as a common language understood throughout the world whose contribution to diplomacy is often not fully utilized. To achieve such challenging goals, scientific discovery must not only advance in the laboratory but also transition into everyday practice, a challenge that cannot be overestimated.  New preventions/therapies must be applied reproducibly and systematically, with flexibility to adapt locally. At least five elements will required for success: 1) Fundamental scientific advances that generate effective therapies for high human health impact diseases; 2) Calls that will mobilize the public and the political leadership to action; 3) Global champions with fiscal resources to support the effort; 4) Adequate public health infrastructure and capacity; 5) Public private partnerships to maximize the resources and approaches to the problem.  Progress is critically dependent on a combination of factors, including political will, economic resources, diagnostic technology, manufacturing capacity, clinical infrastructure, and health care delivery systems.   In the case of HIV-AIDS, global drug treatment has markedly advanced through PEPFAR, and calls for more comprehensive action have been issued [3,4].   Yet two years after the pivotal studies were published, progress has been alarmingly slow; insufficient and not at scale.  Systemic solutions are needed to ensure that the fruits of scientific investigation accrue benefits to the citizens of the world.

[1] M. Cohen et al., N. Eng. J. Med. 365: 493 (2011). [2] C.S. Chasela et al. N. Eng. J. Med. 362: 2271 (2010). [3] Hillary Clinton, [4] A.S. Fauci, Science, 333:13 (2011).