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New US$229 million institute for pandemic therapeutics established in Melbourne

A new A$325 million (US$229 million) center, the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics, targeting anti-pandemic medicines will be established in Melbourne, Australia; the center will be housed within the newly-established A$650 million (US$457 million) Australian Institute for Infectious Disease, a partnership between the University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute, and the Burnet Institute. 

In the largest philanthropic donation ever to a medical research facility in Australia, Canadian businessman Jeffrey Cumming committed to providing A$250 million (US$176 million) to enable the rapid development and testing of new therapeutics to combat emerging pandemics. The Victorian State government has also committed A$75 million (US$53 million) to establish the center.

Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Cummings Centre, stressed the need for greater innovation in anti-pathogen therapeutics. Investments in therapeutics lagged significantly compared to funding for the development of preventatives like vaccines in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new center will, therefore, focus on research in developing new therapeutics quickly, including through computational techniques and molecular platforms.

Press release – The Doherty Institute

Norwegian Research Council announces US$15 million for projects on food security, global health

The Norwegian Research Council announced that it will dedicate NOK148 million (US$15 million) to 14 research projects on international relations, the Arctics, global health, and food security. 

Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, the Norwegian Minister of International Development, said that the projects will generate vital knowledge for future Norwegian foreign and development policy. In addition, she highlighted that the government prioritizes research within international development, especially in light of current compounding crises; current and unfolding challenges like the climate crisis, uncertainty around global food security, the Russian war in Ukraine and high energy prices were all of concern to the minister. 

According to Tvinnereim, Norway has a responsibility to contribute knowledge and research to global challenges, especially considering its role as a major international development funder.

Of the 14 research projects, seven will focus on global health, and Norwegian research institutions will collaborate closely with local partners. The aim of some of these projects will include developing new methods to diagnose and treat preeclampsia and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); they will also test alternative models for providing psychological assistance to LGBTQ+ communities in low-income countries.

Two projects will also focus on global food security and will be conducted in collaboration with local partners in Africa. One of the projects will test methods to improve food security in 'Sub-Saharan Africa' (SSA; meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, as designated by the African Union) by strengthening access to agricultural resources and innovations for small-scale food producers. The second project will look at technological and cultural obstacles to implementing alternative fertilizers.

Press release – the Norwegian Research Council (in Norwegian)

News article – Khrono (in Norwegian)

UK outlines specifics on funding uses for US$295 million in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine

The UK released a new report highlighting where its £220 million (US$295 million) in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine is going. The report highlights that 6.6 million people are displaced inside Ukraine, and 5.8 million people are registered as refugees across Europe, making it one of the fastest-growing refugee crises since World War II.

UK funding, which includes £145 million (US$194 million) for the UN and Red Cross Agencies and an additional £25 million (US$34 million) in matched funding to the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal (DEC), is focused on supporting the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly, and disabled. The UK has three core objectives:

  • Providing assistance in Ukraine and to people seeking refuge in the region;
  • Working with others to deliver a well-coordinated and well-funded response; and
  • Advocating for respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL)

Report – UK Government

South Korea opens K-Bio Health Strategy Center

South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) opened the K-Bio Health Strategy Center in Seoul to establish a comprehensive support system for bio-health companies.

The South Korean government has already established six regional centers for sharing experimental equipment and consulting on clinical trials. MOHW plans to push for related policies to create an industrial ecosystem where bio-health companies with excellent technologies can succeed in commercialization. 

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

News article – Korea (in Korean)

South Korea explores digital health options in Western Pacific region

South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) discussed digital innovation on health in the Western Pacific region with the World Health Organization's (WHO) Western Pacific Regional Office and the Korean Society of Medical Informatics.

This meeting was held in connection with the 6th National Assembly International Health Council Forum to promote cooperation between lawmakers in the Asia-Pacific region. MOHW intends to pursue digital-based future medical care, a new digital healthcare market, and a big data-based bio-health industry. South Korea will strengthen cooperation with domestic and foreign digital healthcare experts to explore South Korea's potential role in the Western Pacific region as a leader in digital healthcare.  

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

News article – Korea (in Korean)

UK unlikely to meet fiscal tests to return to 0.7% ODA/GNI due to inflation

The UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an independent research institute, issued a new briefing note on the outlook for UK public finances over the coming years; the note suggests that the UK’s fiscal tests to return to 0.7% ODA/GNI will likely not be satisfied by FY2023/24 as anticipated by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in April 2022. The two fiscal tests set by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, were that the country is not borrowing for day-to-day spending and that the ratio of underlying debt to GDP is falling.

The IFS’s briefing note is based on the Bank of England’s August 2022 forecasts which show higher and more persistent inflation than anticipated by the OBR. The report, which provides a set of scenarios for government spending and revenue, shows that higher inflation combined with higher interest rates, will push up public spending and that while revenues will also be pushed up by higher inflation, they will likely be moderated by weaker growth in real-terms earnings and household spending. As a result, the note shows that borrowing could be about £16 billion (US$22 billion) higher than forecasted in 2022 and £23 billion (US$ 40 billion) higher in 2023.

Briefing Note - Institute for Fiscal Studies

Twitter – Richard Watts

FCDO Annual Report fails to outline future ODA budgets, reflects trend to prioritize economic growth

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) 'Annual Report', released in August 2022, contained no forward-looking ODA budget outline for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022/23 against key geographies and key departments - a stark omission; the report usually contains this information. The UK’s international development NGO network, BOND, criticized the omission as a blow to transparency. The FCDO stated that it will release its projected ODA budget sometime in the fall.

The report does, however, provide some insight into ODA spending across FCDO departments between FY2020/21 and FY2021/22 when the UK reduced its ODA/GNI ratio from 0.7% to 0.5%.

Health: FCDO’s health program, which includes the 'Global Health Funds' department, had a marginally higher budget, moving from £1.15 billion (US$1.5 billion) in FY2020/21 to £1.19 billion (US$1.6 billion) in FY2021/22. However, two additional areas were counted under this programmatic area in the latest 'Annual Report': the 'Health Directorate Central' and 'Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics' work. If these two additional spending items are excluded, health spending fell by 14%, from £1.15 billion (US$1.5 billion) in FY2020/21 to £993 million (US$1.3 billion) in FY2021/22.

Education and Gender: 'Education, Gender and Equality' program funding fell by 43%, moving from £308 million (US$414 million) in FY2020/21 to £174 million (US$234 million) in FY2021/22. Specific spending items were different between evaluated years due to organizational department changes, so it is difficult to determine cut locations at this stage. However, this thematic area performed better than anticipated, as it had a projected budget of just £124 million (US$167 million) for FY2021/22 in 2021.

Climate: 'Energy, Climate and Environment' program funding fell by 39%, from £330 million (US$443 million) in FY2020/21 to £201 million (US$270 million) between FY2021/22, with the largest drop in funding to the International Climate Change and Green Growth Department; this drop was anticipated in the projected budget.

Economy: 'Economic Cooperation & Growth' was the biggest winner with allocated funding growing almost five-fold, from £61.4 million (US$83 million) in FY2020/21 to £336 million (US$451 million) in FY2021/22.  This reflects the changing priorities of the UK government toward increasing economic growth and shifting away from traditional development programs.

News article – BOND

Report – FCDO

South Korea and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sign agreement to strengthen health cooperation

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to strengthen cooperation for international health security and health equality.

Bill Gates visited South Korea to deliver a speech on the importance of international cooperation for infectious diseases at the National Assembly in South Korea. The MOU includes the following items for global health cooperation between South Korea and BMGF:

  1. Strengthen private and public partnerships such as the Research Investment for Global Health Technology Foundation (RIGHT Fund);
  2. Expand partnerships with health initiatives such as the Global Fund, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi); and
  3. Encourage joint research and development of vaccines and diagnostic devices to resolve health inequality. This will be a cornerstone for expanding South Korea’s contribution to international health cooperation.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

News article – Newsis (in Korean)

UK launches legal proceedings as EU blocks access to research programs

The UK government launched formal consultations with the EU to dispute the EU's move to block UK access to EU research and development (R&D) programs. 

The UK argues that by delaying the UK’s access to Horizon Europe, the EU research program, the EU is in breach of the Brexit deal, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The European Commission has paused progress on a UK association agreement to Horizon Europe because it says the UK has not been complying with the Northern Ireland protocol within the Brexit agreement.

The delay has meant the UK has not been allowed to participate in Horizon Europe programs like the Global Health European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP3) or Copernicus, the earth observation program that helps monitor climate change. 

News article - Bloomberg

Press release - FCDO

Moderna to establish mRNA vaccine production facility, research center in Australia

The Australian and Victorian governments finalized an agreement with vaccine producer Moderna to establish a manufacturing site at Monash University in Melbourne.

The facility will have the capacity to produce 100 million mRNA vaccine doses per year and will be the company’s only manufacturing site in the southern hemisphere. 

Moderna will also establish a Regional Research Centre in Victoria, which will be functional by 2024. However, no details have been given about whether the production facility will supply regional countries as well as Australia. 

Separately, Australia's major vaccine producer CSL stated it would move forward with plans to produce its own mRNA vaccines, which could possibly be manufactured outside Australia.

Report – Monash University

Report – CSL, Pharma Dispatch

UK Health Security Agency prioritizes global pandemic preparedness in 2022-2023

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which was set up in 2021, has three core priorities for 2022-2023, one of which involves supporting global health security. Under this priority, the UKHSA has committed to:

  • Supporting the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) to strengthen international health regulation capacities in at least five key areas and co-chairing GHSA’s Zoonotic Diseases Action Package with the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (defra). The GHSA is a network of 70 countries, international and non-government organizations, and private sector companies working to secure global health security;
  • Supporting and, where needed, leading the UK’s cross-government One Health co-ordination to support the delivery of the UK’s G7 and G20 priorities;
  • Improving global disease surveillance and pandemic preparedness;
  • Leading the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Epidemiology and Surveillance and contributing to preparation for the UN High-level Meeting on AMR;
  • Strengthening global clinical trials eco-system;
  • Leading on the UK’s commitment to deliver vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics within 100 days of future pandemic threat identification (‘100 days mission’);'
  • Contributing to the WHO Immunization Agenda 2030 initiative and working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to assess proposals by WHO and other international organizations on health emergencies reform; 
  • Providing expert advice to WHO on the new 'Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens' (SAGO);
  • Providing strategic input and supoprt to develop and implement global programs to strengthen surveillance and improvement and strengthen UK international partnerships on global health security; 
  • Helping to deliver the ODA-funded International Health Regulation Strengthening Project and expand its scope to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN);
  • Supporting the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team – an ODA-funded initiative that supports global health emergencies by providing UK experts and technical assistance; and
  • Forming an agreement with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. 

Letter – UKHSA

JCIE launches Global Health Task Force ahead of 2023 G7 Summit

The Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) recently launched the Hiroshima G7 Global Health Task Force in preparation for the G7 Summit, which will be hosted in Hiroshima in May 2023. 

The task force was launched by JCIE’s Executive Committee on Global Health and Human Security and will be responsible for presenting recommendations to the Japanese government on global health. It will also organize discussions with participants from various backgrounds, including those from non-G7 countries.

The task force will explore three specific topics including:

  • '100 Days Mission and Access & Delivery (100 Days Mission PLUS);'
  • 'Resilient, Equitable, and Sustainable universal health coverage (UHC);' and
  • 'Global Health Architecture Development.'

Press release – Japan Center for International Exchange

South Korea creates K-Bio Vaccine Fund with US$383 million to strengthen vaccine production, innovation

South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) announced plans to create the 'K-Bio Vaccine Fund' to promote investment in new medicine and vaccines.

The 'K-Bio Vaccine Fund' will be created with KRW500 billion (US$383 million) to develop innovative medicine for domestic pharmaceutical companies, enhance competitiveness in the vaccine industry, and support them to enter the global pharmaceutical and bio markets. The MOHW plans to expand this fund to KRW1 trillion (US$765 million) in the future and hopes the fund revitalizes the bio-health industry and creates innovative development of new medicine in South Korea.

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

News article – Medifonews (in Korean)

UK could count US$403 million in leftover COVID-19 vaccine donations as ODA

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization, has estimated that up to £300 million (US$403 million) of UK ODA that could have been used to support humanitarian disasters will be cut due to the government’s decision to count donations of leftover COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle- income countries as ODA. The UK has donated approximately 85 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since June 2021 – short of the 100 million it pledged to deliver at the G7. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) international rules for counting vaccine donations as ODA – the UK's donations so far could account for £275 million (US$369 million) - £300 million (US$403 million) of the UK’s ODA budget.

NGOs and opposition parties in the UK have criticized the UK government’s decision to count its leftover vaccines as ODA, noting that the move will result in less funding for humanitarian and development programs. The ONE Campaign, an international development NGO, estimates that this funding would have been enough to reverse the £131 million (US$ 176 million) in cuts to the UN’s main reproductive health program, which the UN says would prevent 250,000 maternal and child deaths, and could also help to restore nearly all of the UK’s £200 million (US$268 million) in funding cuts for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects.

News article - The Telegraph

Committee recommends reducing Norwegian development spending channels to improve oversight

A survey conducted by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute and Deloitte, on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD), resulted in a discussion about how Norwegian international development funding is managed. 

The survey performed an area review of the Norwegian Foreign Service and found potential for streamlined and improved efficiency in development policy funding. 

The committee was critical of the disparate and high number of government parties managing development funding, including the UD, other ministries, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), and 46 different foreign missions.

Within the UD, 35 units cover international development funding, involving 800 case workers and 170 managers in the decision-making process. The committee argues that the large number of units, both in Norway and internationally, leads to fragmented management and the lack of a holistic approach to development funding. 

In addition, the survey notes that funding is also allocated to a variety of multilateral organizations, Norwegian NGOs, local NGOs, government entities in recipient countries, and private actors, making oversight difficult.

The committee argues that Norwegian international development funding can be strengthened by:  

  • Consolidating responsibility for development policy into one department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • Clearly prioritizing what needs to be achieved in development spending oversight;
  • Assessing which channels are most effective for achieving these goals;
  • Significantly reducing the number of entities managing Norwegian development funding; and
  • Reducing the number of recipient countries for Norwegian development funding, but ensuring the appropriate allocations of emergency humanitarian assistance, as needed.

News article – Aftenposten (in Norwegian)

New patch delivery system could improve access, effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

Researchers at the University of Queensland tested a high-density microarray patch on mice and used it to deliver a dose of Hexapro SARS-CoV-2 spike vaccine. The patch was produced by the Brisbane biotechnology company Vaxxas.

Researchers found the patch was much more effective at combating the Omicron variant than the same vaccine administered via needle. 

Large-scale trials have not yet taken place, but various vaccine types appear to yield a better immune response when delivered using the patch.

Once human trials on patch delivery systems are complete and approved, vaccine access could improve globally. Reduced need for supercool refrigeration and skilled vaccine administrators will make vaccines more accessible in hard-to-reach areas. 

News article – News.com

EU’s global health clinical trials partnership publishes 2021 annual report

The EU’s partnership for funding global health research and research capacity building in 'sub-Saharan Africa', the European Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), has published its annual report for 2021. 

According to the annual report, EDCTP’s grants portfolio totaled €814 million (US$860 million) for 435 projects in 2021, including 140 collaborative clinical research projects, 90 capacity development projects, and 205 fellowships. EDCTP also launched a Global TB Vaccine Research & Development (R&D) Roadmap to help coordinate global efforts on developing tuberculosis vaccines.

Report - EDCTP

UK suspends all 'non-essential' ODA ahead of Prime Minister race

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Nazim Zahawi announced in late July 2022 that all ‘non-essential’ ODA spending will be suspended until the Conservative Party selects a new Prime Minister for the UK on September 7, 2022. The decision was made due to concerns that higher-than-anticipated ODA spending on resettling refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan will result in the ODA budget breaching the new 0.5% gross national income (GNI) spending target. The UK government has not defined what counts as essential or non-essential ODA.

The UK Home Office's ODA budget is expected to be higher than originally planned because it will count the cost of housing refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan in the UK as ODA. While no specific figures are given, Devex suggests ODA-eligible costs could be as high as £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) in the UK in 2022.  

UK NGOs and development experts have criticized the move, noting that at a time of rising development needs with a global food crisis and the development impacts of COVID-19, it is not the time to suspend UK ODA.

The Financial Times, which first broke the story, has cited that the decision on whether to breach the 0.5% ODA/GNI limit, is one of six overarching challenges facing the next UK Prime Minister. They note that while reducing UK ODA is popular with many Conservative voters, it risks alienating centre-left Tory voters, particularly young graduates and professionals who are key for marginal Conservative seats.

News article - Devex

News article - Financial Times

News article - The Guardian

200 public figures call on France, EU to increase Global Fund contributions

In an op-ed published in the weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), 200 public figures and celebrities, including tennis player Yannick Noah, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, ONE France Director, Nobel Prize Laureate and President of Sidaction, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and activists from the African continent and international NGOs called on governments, especially the European Commission and France, to drastically increase their contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ahead of its seventh replenishment, which will take place in September 2022 in New York.

According to the signatories of the call, 38 million people live with HIV and 700,000 died in 2020. Malaria is still endemic in 87 countries and tuberculosis, the second-most active infectious disease after COVID-19, caused 1.5 million deaths in 2020.

Op-ed - Le Journal du Dimanche (in French)

Sweden provides record financial support to Global Fund for 2023-2025

On July 13, 2022, Sweden announced its plan to increase its financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) to SEK3 billion (US$286 million) over the next three-year period 2023-2025. Sweden’s support is intended to contribute to the fund’s goal of saving 20 million lives and reducing mortality from HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria by two-thirds.

Swedish funding to the Global Fund will amount to SEK1 billion (US$95 million) per year from 2023 to 2025. This represents a more than 5% increase in Sweden’s financial support for the organization.

Sweden has provided extensive development assistance for health, focusing on creating societies that promote health, improve access to quality health services for all, and respond to health threats and crises. Sweden’s work against poverty, for equality and gender equality, and to address the climate crisis are also important cornerstones of its global health priorities. 

Press Release - Government of Sweden (in Swedish)