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South Korea’s leading bio-tech companies join forces to establish 'Vaccine Innovation Council'

South Korea’s vaccine companies have decided to launch a “Vaccine Innovation Council” to establish vaccine sovereignty, enhance international competitiveness, and cooperate with the aim of strengthening research and development (R&D) capabilities in the vaccine industry.

South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Vaccine Innovative Technology Alliance Korea hosted the launch ceremony for the Vaccine Innovation Council; 14 major Korean vaccine companies participated. The Council plans to conduct research on vaccine development, strengthen R&D capabilities, and cooperate with the government to produce countermeasures in the event of a national health crisis caused by infectious disease. The Council intends to help South Korea respond to future infectious diseases based on strengthened vaccine development capabilities.  

News article – Korea (in Korean)

EU-Africa global health clinical trials partnership launches with US$1.7 billion for next ten years

At an event in Paris, the European Commission launched the Global Health European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Joint Undertaking (GH EDCTP3 JU) with a €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) budget for the next ten years to fund clinical research on infectious diseases impacting countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The GH EDCTP3 JU is a partnership under the EU’s Horizon Europe research program. It is the largest Africa-Europe partnership on research and development (R&D) to date. It will focus on poverty-related diseases such as  HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and neglected tropical diseases (PRNDs).

Its predecessor, EDCTP2, was a partnership only between participating EU member states and sub-Saharan African governments, whereas EDCTP3 is also open to participation from industry and philanthropies. Its overall budget includes contributions from the European Commission as well as participating countries and private sector entities.

Blog post - DSW

Website - European Commission

New report highlights COVID-19 impact on existing epidemcis like HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB

Focus Equality, a member of the ACTION global health advocacy partnership, and the think tank Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) recently published the report, 'Global health and international cooperation addressing current and future pandemics'. 

The report assessed the state of the fight against COVID-19 one year after the G20 World Health Summit. In addition, the research analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other existing epidemics such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV. The document provided recommendations to the Italian Government given the replenishment of the Global Fund, which is scheduled to take place in September of 2022.

Report - Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

FCDO international development strategy remains unpublished, internal budget allocations delayed

Devex recently reported that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has not yet finalized internal allocations for its budget for FY2022/23. 

The overall budget envelope for the FCDO was set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review at £11.1 billion (US$14.3 billion) for FY2022/23 (for both ODA and non-ODA spending). Normally, funding allocations to core thematic and geographic departments within the FCDO are decided by April the latest. However, Devex noted that the FCDO is struggling to finalize these internal allocations.

Part of the reason for the delay could be the failure of the FCDO to finalize its policy priorities, particularly in international development. The UK’s long-awaited International Development Strategy, which has been drawn up by the FCDO, was initially scheduled for release last year but remains unpublished. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in March was cited as the latest reason for the delay, as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, set about re-writing the strategy in light of the geopolitical shift.

Devex noted that there are concerns that following the recent UK local elections on May 5, 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson may reshuffle the cabinet reshuffle, potentially causing further delays in the strategy's publication.

The UK NGO community has called for the publication of the International Development Strategy as soon as possible, especially in light of the currently reduced ODA budget and the need for transparency and clarity over the UK’s priorities moving forward.

News article – DEVEX

Australia disburses over 50% of bilateral COVID-19 vaccines to Indo-Pacific region

Australia has bilaterally delivered more than 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to countries in the Indo-Pacific region - over half of Australia's 60 million dose commitment.

The majority of doses were supplied to Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Separately,  Australia committed an additional A$85 million (US$61 million) to the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) on  April 1, 2022. Australia’s total commitment to the COVAX AMC is now A$215 million (US$158 million).

The Australian Government also committed A$100 million (US$72 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). This pledge represents a more than 5-fold increase over Australia’s previous commitment to CEPI. Half of the CEPI funding came from the Australian ODA budget and the other half from Australia’s Health Department.

Report - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Press release – Minister for Foreign Affairs

Stakeholders call for AU-EU Innovation Agenda to make African R&I ecosystem as strong as Europe’s

Stakeholders participating in a roundtable hosted by the publication Science|Business called for the new African Union (AU)-EU Innovation Agenda to strengthen the African research and innovation (R&I) ecosystem until it is on a level playing field with Europe’s and suggested that EU-AU research cooperation should be driven by opportunity, not foreign assistance. 

Participants suggested during the March 29, 2022, meeting in Brussels that the EU should provide funding for researchers at the PhD level and above in AU countries and improve research infrastructures. A joint study exchange program for PhD students across Europe and Africa could enable knowledge exchange and create a research network. Creating a database of African research could facilitate data sharing between European and African research teams as well.

The AU-EU Innovation Agenda will target cooperation around health, the green transition, and enhancing R&I capacities. Public consultation on the agenda is open until May 13, 2022.

News article - Science|Business

UK commits US$20 million to Global Financing Facility

The UK Minister of State for Asia and the Middle East, Amanda Milling, tweeted that the UK has committed £15 million (US$20 million) to support the Global Financing Facility (GFF), a global mechanism for supporting low- and middle-income countries to invest in women, children and adolescent health.

The commitment was made at GFF’s ‘Reclaim the Gains’ meeting in Washington, DC on April 22, 2022, which saw international development providers, including the UK, provide an additional US$500 million in total to GFF. The impact of COVID-19 has severely restricted access to health services; GFF reported that coverage of lifesaving health interventions for women, children, and adolescents in 36 GFF countries dropped up to 25% in the first year of the pandemic.

Tweet - Amanda Milling

Press release – GFF

France aligns priorities with Global Fund at HIV/AIDS conference

During the AFRAVIH (French Alliance of Health Actors Against HIV/AIDS, and Chronic and Emerging Viral Infections) conference held in Marseille, several NGOs, think tanks, academics, and government decision-makers discussed the HIV/AIDS pandemic and addressed how to end the pandemic by 2030. 

Françoise Vanni, a representative of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, attended the conference and introduced the organization's investment priorities for the next 3 years, which aim to mobilize at least US$18 billion. Stéphanie Seydoux, the French Ambassador for Global Health, presented France and the Global Fund's shared priorities, which include:

  • partner country ownership at the national and local level; 
  • the promotion of inclusiveness for those living with HIV/AIDS through national coordination mechanisms; and, 
  • the promotion of human rights and the fight against discrimination and criminalization of those with HIV/AIDS.  

The NGO, Aides, part of the Coalition Plus network, organized a protest calling for France to increase its contribution to The Global Fund by 50% for the next replenishment cycle.

News article - Seronet (in French)

European Parliament calls for strengthening EU cooperation with partners on R&I in climate change, health, gender mainstreaming

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the European Commission’s May 2021 Communication on its Global Approach to Research and Innovation (R&I) that calls for strengthening EU cooperation with lower- and middle-income countries on R&I in areas such as climate change, health, and epidemic preparedness, as well as better integrating the gender dimension in R&I.

The resolution highlights the need to promote gender equality in R&I implementation and content and urges the EU to seek synergies between its R&I cooperation and the EU’s external action programs. 

Resolution - European Parliament

Strategy - European Commission

Japan establishes new institution to deploy vaccines during crises, allocates US$1.8 billion for R&D

The Japanese government established the Strategic Center of Biomedical Advanced Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response (SCARDA), a new institution responsible for delivering safe and effective vaccines during public health emergencies. The government also announced plans to invest ¥51.5 billion (US$452 million) to prepare development sites and ¥150.4 billion(US$1.3 billion) for vaccine research and development (R&D).

SCARDA will support public-private partnerships and provide quick, flexible funding during emergencies. The organization’s goal is to achieve the Group of 7’s “100 Days Mission” of deploying safe and effective diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines within 100 days of a pandemic.

News article – The Japan Times

Japan’s GHIT Fund announces US$6 million investment for malaria treatments, vaccines

The Tokyo-based Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund announced a US$6 million investment in three partnerships to develop malaria treatments and vaccines.

  • US$4 million for the development of monoclonal antibodies for malaria prevention;
  • US$604,000 for the development of next-generation multistage/multispecies malaria vaccines; and,
  • US$1 million for the identification of lead compound series with antimalarial activity.

GHIT Fund aims to create international partnerships between leaders in innovation and low-income countries to fight against infectious diseases and poverty. The fund’s portfolio consists of 61 ongoing projects and US$239 million in investments.

Press release – Global Health Innovative Technology Fund

Italy's Joint Development Cooperation Committee approves US$200 million intervention package

Italy's Joint Development Cooperation Committee approved a package of interventions worth approximately €180 million($200 million): €22 million (US$25 million) was allocated for multi- and bi-lateral projects on food security and social, economic, and environmental development in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans, and €158 million ($179 million) was allocated for voluntary contributions to International Organizations:

  • €85 million (US$96 million) was allocated to the healthcare sector: €54 million (US$61 million) for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, €24 million (US$27 million) to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and €4 million (US$5 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI);
  • €37 million (US$42 million) was allocated for sustainable development and education: €17 million (US$19 million) to The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat (UN DESA), €7 million (US$8 million) to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), €5 million (US$6 million)to the  Global Partnership for Education (GPE), €3 million (US$3 million) to the Mediterranean and Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM/IAMB), and €3million (US$3 million) to the International Development Law Organization (IDLO); and, 
  • €27 million (US$31 million) was allocated to the humanitarian sector and to support gender empowerment: €9 million (US$10 million) to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), €6 million (US$7 million) to the International Red Cross (CICR), €5 million (US$6 million) to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), €3 million (US$3 million) to United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), and €3 (US$3 million) to UN Women.

Press release - Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (in Italian)

200 NGOs call on UK's Truss to avoid deprioritizing development assistance for long-term crises following FCDO strategy leaks

200 UK NGOs wrote a letter to the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, urging her not to deprioritize health, climate change, and conflict prevention in the UK’s forthcoming international development strategy. The letter, sent by British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND), the UK international development NGO platform, was sent in response to leaks from civil servants at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) that shared Truss had ordered a radical review of the government’s international development strategy following the invasion of Ukraine and was seeking to shift UK priorities. The strategy was due to be released in February 2022 but has been rescheduled for April 2022.

BOND urged Truss to ensure that the UK’s international development strategy is ‘poverty-focused, evidence and rights-based, and accountable to the British public and communities it is meant to serve'. They also urged Truss to continue the UK’s focus on critical issues like global health, climate change, and conflict, noting that it would be short-sighted and would undermine the UK’s strong record of impact in these areas to redirect funding to shorter-term crises exclusively. Finally, the letter calls on Truss to reinstate the UK’s commitment to delivering 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA), noting that this would enable the UK to respond appropriately to the crisis in Ukraine, while also supporting other countries in need.

Letter - BOND

FCDO restructures senior management team with focus on security; experts worry UK will downgrade focus on development

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has restructured its senior management team, including how it manages its development cooperation.

The FCDO’s most senior civil servant, Philip Barton, the FCDO permanent secretary, will now have an undersecretary for support. Tim Barrow will step into this role; Barrow formerly served as the FCDO’s political director.

Two new security posts have been established which appear to be driven by the war in Ukraine. Harriet Mathews has been appointed Director-General (DG) for Geopolitical and Security, and Thomas Drew has been appointed DG of Defence and Intelligence. Drew was formerly DG for the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

More specifically on the development front, the FCDO has created a new DG post for 'Humanitarian and Development'. Nick Dyer, the UK government’s former special envoy on famine prevention and humanitarian affairs will take on the post temporarily while the FCDO recruits a long-term replacement.

In addition, a new DG post for Economics and Global Issues has been created. Kumar Iyer, who formerly served as the DG for Delivery at FCDO, will take on this role.

The reshuffle has resulted in resignations, with Moazzam Malik, the FCDO’s DG for Africa announcing his departure. The FCDO will temporarily hire a new DG responsible for Africa and Latin America before a long-term replacement can be found to take on this new role. Development experts have decried Malik’s resignation and the merging of African and Latin American development programs as a signal that the FCDO is downgrading its focus on development.

Finally, Jenny Bates, DG for Indo-Pacific will take responsibility for the UK’s development finance institute, British International Investment (formerly known as CDC), and Vijay Rangarajan, former DG of Americas and Overseas Territories, will now be responsible for the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North America, and Overseas Territories.

News article – Devex

Mixed reactions to potential TRIPS waiver deal for COVID-19 vaccines

South Africa, India, the United States, and the EU have reached a potential compromise on a waiver for some intellectual property restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines, which was met with mixed reactions. The deal would allow all countries that exported less than 10% of the world’s vaccines in 2021 to waive multiple patents for COVID-19 vaccines.

Some have lauded the breakthrough in negotiations but critics have said the deal is too narrow as it doesn’t cover all COVID-19 medical technologies, nor does it include a waiver beyond patents (such as for industrial designs, copyrights, and trade secrets), as was initially proposed by South Africa and India in October of 2020. 

The deal, which focuses only on vaccines, would require the support of all members of the World Trade Organization for it to be formally adopted. Potential deals on diagnostics and therapeutics will be decided within six months.

News article - Devex

Leaked draft EU research work programs for 2023-2024 includes focus on pandemic preparedness

Leaked draft work programs for Horizon Europe, the EU’s research program, for 2023-2024 include a strong focus on pandemic preparedness for the program’s health cluster. 

The program includes calls for proposals related to the new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), including medical devices, protective equipment, diagnostics devices, understanding vaccine induced-immunity, and viruses with epidemic potential.

The five themes for the health cluster include: 

  1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society (includes topics on aging, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and children and adolescent health); 
  2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment (includes the impact of climate change and environmental pollution); 
  3. Tackling disease and reducing disease burden (includes non-communicable diseases, pandemic preparedness, rare diseases, and antimicrobial resistance, as well as HERA-specific topics); 
  4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable, and high-quality health care (includes access to care, health care workforce, environmentally sustainable health care systems); and 
  5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies, and digital solutions for a healthy society (includes data, modeling and simulations, bio-printing, and digital health technologies).

The work program includes an action to provide a grant awarded without a call for proposals to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative (CEPI) although it does not mention the award amount. 

Another action will allow the mobilization of research funds to respond in the event of a public health emergency. The grants will be awarded without a call for proposals should circumstances call for it.

News article - Science|Business

South Korea elects new president, plans to make nation bio-health powerhouse; gender equality at stake

Yoon Suk-yeol from the main opposition, People Power Party, was elected as the 20th president of South Korea on March 9, 2022. His presidency will officially start on May 10, 2022, and his term will last five years. Suk-yeol aims to open the era of Korean bio-health and make South Korea a vaccine-medicine powerhouse, by committing to "fairness and common sense".

The new government will fully support global health R&D to establish a global vaccine hub and expand R&D in bio-digital and advanced medical care. Suk-yeol will also set up a “Presidential Committee on Pharmaceutical Bio-Innovation” directly under the Prime Minister, which will coordinate and foster support for the pharmaceutical and bio industries.

However, many are concerned about the president-elect's gender equality agenda. The former conservative prosecutor self-declares as an anti-feminist and called for the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. He has blamed the low birth rate in South Korea on feminism and capitalized on young men's fears about feminism and modest women's rights gains to win votes in the election. He has also stated that he does not believe that gender-based systemic and structural discrimination exists in South Korea. 

News article - Maekyung (in Korean)

News article - TIME

Australia makes $72 million pledge to CEPI

The Australian government has committed to providing A$100 million (US$72 million) over 5 years to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). 

The new funding was announced at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit in London. ACFID, the Australian Council for International Development representing overseas development NGOs, welcomed the government’s commitment.  

A major campaign was conducted by Australian NGOs, coordinated by Micah. Leaders of key NGOs, ACFID, and community leaders co-signed a letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling for a A$100 million commitment. They argued greater Australian government investment was needed in dealing with vaccine inequity and improving preparedness for future pandemics.

Before this new commitment, Australia had only provided A$17 million (US$12 million) to CEPI since its creation in 2017. 

The Government has not yet advised where the contribution to CEPI will be drawn from. Most of the funds are likely to be sourced from within Australia’s overseas development assistance budget.

News article - ACFID

Italy announces US$22 million pledge to CEPI

At the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) Replenishment in March of 2022, Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Marina Sereni announced a €20 million (US$22 million) pledge to CEPI. 

Italy contributed €15 million (US$17 million) to CEPI's last replenishment. This increased pledge shows solid political support for Italy for global health and pandemic preparedness.

Tweet - Cooperazione Italiana

Press release – CEPI

Major donors contribute $1.5 billion to CEPI’s pandemic-busting plan, but fall short of expectations

Major donors contributed a total of US$1.5 billion to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)'s at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit in London on March 7 - 8 2022 to help kick start the organization’s 100 Days Mission, aiming to have safe and effective vaccines within 100 days of the identification of a pandemic or epidemic threat.

Representatives from 20 countries attended the Summit. UK, Japan, Norway, US, Germany, Australia, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome were some of the largest donors. G20 President Indonesia also pledged US$5 million in support for CEPI. 

Pandemic Action Network noted that "While this is a welcome and important first step toward a world that is better prepared for pandemic threats, it is disappointing that many governments failed to match political support with bold and meaningful financial commitments."

Press release - CEPI

Press release - Pandemic Action Network