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A Global Health Innovation Accelerator Launched In South Africa

by Felix Omondi

A Global Health Innovation Accelerator Launched In South Africa

A partnership between South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and PATH has led to the establishment of the Global Health Innovation Accelerator (GHIA) in South Africa. GHIA is aimed at developing medical devices and diagnostics that will improve maternal, neonatal and child care in South Africa and beyond.

A Global Health Innovation Accelerator Launched In South Africa

GHIA will fast-track the development and introduction of sustainable, effective medical technologies which will go a long way in saving the lives of vulnerable children and women in South Africa and the world in general.

The center was made possible by the Strategic Health Innovation Partnerships (SHIP) unit at SAMRC in collaboration with PATH. SHIP came about as a result of a partnership between SAMRC and the Department of Science and Technology back in 2013.

A Global Health Innovation Accelerator Launched In South AfricaGHIA aims at fast-tracking the development of promising medical technologies that will address health issues affecting the low-income communities.  The center will play a key role in connecting scientists and technical experts, giving funds and a networking platform for global partners with local scientists and innovators thus accelerating the development and introduction of medical products. At first, the partnership will focus on the advancement of medical devices, diagnostics and health tools to reach out to the most-vulnerable women and children.

Dr Phil Mjwara, Director-General, Department of Science and Technology said, “We are excited by the prospects that the partnership between the SAMRC (SHIP) and PATH through the Global Health Innovation Accelerator bring to the South African health research and innovation landscape, particularly in relation to maternal and child health.

We are confident that the GHIA would enable us to tap into PATH’s extensive experience in managing the challenges that prevent technologies from reaching global markets, and thus enable health innovations to reach people who need them the most, especially women and children.”

South Africa has high death rates resulting from maternal and child health complications, in addition to HIV, tuberculosis among other communicable diseases. Prompting the National Department of Health’s strategic plan to call for more concerted efforts in reducing preventable child mortality and making sure that all mothers receive proper antenatal, birth and postpartum medical attention.

We desperately need to find innovative solutions that will save the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth. Interventions that prevent unnecessary stillbirths and neonatal deaths are critical as we endeavour to drive down mortality in children in Africa,” said president of the SAMRC, Glenda Gray. “The SAMRC is deeply committed to this bold step to help find medical solutions that are game-changing. This partnership between SHIP, DST and PATH demonstrates our commitment to finding new ways of solving old problems.”

Dr Ayo Ajayi, International Development vice president at PATH, said, “The GHIA promotes a new paradigm for global health: tapping innovation wherever it is found to accelerate health solutions.

What makes the GHIA unique is its focus on strengthening home grown innovation – whether from South Africa or elsewhere – to quickly bring new products to market. It combines South Africa’s innovation, expertise and research capacity with PATH’s nearly 40 years of experience in breaking through barriers that can prevent lifesaving technologies from reaching those who need them.”

From 2011 to date, PATH has invested about $3.7 million in the advancement of health technologies in South Africa, in areas such as product introduction, commercialization and data-gathering activities. All of which have played a key role in paving the way for the establishment of GHIA.

SHIP on its part plays an important role as an enabler in the South African bio-economy by funding early-stage product development, committing over $30 million to various product-driven initiatives launched in South Africa.

Use of innovative technologies and medical approaches to improve the lives of women and children, has significantly led to the reduction of both maternal and child mortality. Still more concerted efforts need to put in place, given the fact that about 6.3 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday in 2013, and 293,000 women died from mostly preventable pregnancy-related complications.

To address such issues, GHIA intends to pursue new investments from various donors, public- and private-sector investors among others. It also aims at leveraging the capacity and technical expertise of its new partners thus driving transformative technologies from concept to widespread use.

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