May 25, 2022
Every 25 May, the world commemorates #AfricaDay to celebrate the continent, its people, and its many successes. From a public health standpoint, the region continues to progress toward ending Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), malaria, and tuberculosis, with a helping hand from the African research and innovation ecosystem.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its report Road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021–2030, classifies research and innovation as “fundamental enablers of programmatic progress for all diseases.”
NTDs, malaria, and tuberculosis impact over a billion people in the world’s most disadvantaged communities in both developed and developing countries, disrupting lives and productivity. On the African continent, where NTDs, malaria, and tuberculosis are more prevalent, advances in research lead to the implementation of new or updated prevention initiatives as well as treatment tools, saving lives and reinforcing health systems.
Better use, and sharing, of analytical tools and data; the development of accurate and affordable diagnostic tests (sometimes detecting multiple diseases at once); increased political will; and advances in the delivery and monitoring of safer and affordable treatment, make it possible to treat more people faster and with better outcomes.
Since 2008, 42 countries and territories – the majority in Africa, have successfully eliminated at least one NTD. According to WHO, Leprosy is no longer a public health concern in Sub-Saharan Africa, and forty-one countries on the continent have successfully eradicated Guinea worm infections – a debilitating parasitic disease.
Carrying a disproportionally high share of the global malaria burden, Africa took further steps to tackle one of its leading causes of child mortality by piloting the first ever malaria vaccine, the RTS,S vaccine. Following promising results, in October 2021, WHO endorsed the RTS,S vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, and recommended the treatment for young children at risk. WIPO Director General Daren Tang last year noted this scientific advancement.
African researchers and innovators are on the front lines of finding solutions to the public health challenges they face. The African Union (AU) recently published Health Research and Innovation Strategy for Africa (HRISA), its policy paper to support the further development of the continent’s health technology and innovation ecosystem. In earlier 2022, the AU pledged to eliminate NTDs by 2030.
To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day on April 26, 2022, WIPO invited young African innovators and entrepreneurs in global health to share their stories and discuss the evolving innovation ecosystem in Africa. WIPO supports researchers around the world looking to advance progress toward the planet’s most pressing global health issues. Visit IP for a Healthier World, a virtual exhibition showing how intellectual property and ingenuity contribute to controlling and eliminating NTDs, malaria, and tuberculosis.
Africa and the rest of the world are in a race against time. Not only to reach the health targets of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 but also to stay ahead of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Recognized by the UN and other relevant institutions as a threat to global health, AMR occurs when antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics and disinfectants are no longer effective in preventing or treating diseases and infections, including NTDs, malaria, and tuberculosis. This happens because microorganisms - the tiniest living things on our planet - acquire the ability to resist modern medicine by transforming into immune strains.
A growing concern for developed and developing countries alike, this new challenge demonstrates that innovation does not have the luxury of rest. As we celebrate #AfricaDay, the present and longstanding goal of controlling and eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis on the continent is attainable, even as new regional and global challenges loom.
To commemorate World #AfricaDay2022, we invite you to visit IP for a Healthier World, a virtual exhibition to increase awareness of NTDs, malaria, and tuberculosis globally and to pay tribute to the contributions that WIPO Re:Search partners, researchers, and fellows have made to NTD research over the past ten years.