Member States adopt the Global Strategy for TB Research and Innovation at 73rd World Health Assembly

Member States have adopted the global strategy for TB research and innovation through an unprecedented silent-written procedure of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) last week. The global strategy was developed to support efforts by governments and other partners to accelerate TB research and innovation, and to improve equitable access to the benefits of research in line with the commitments made in the WHO End TB Strategy, the Moscow Declaration to End TB and the political declaration of the United Nations high-level meeting on TB. The development of the strategy was requested by Member States during the 71st WHA with a view “to make further progress in enhancing cooperation and coordination in respect of tuberculosis research and development”.

Four major areas for action are highlighted in the strategy: creating an enabling environment for TB research and innovation; increasing financial investments in TB research and innovation; promoting and improving approaches to data sharing; and promoting equitable access to the benefits of research and innovation. In the spirit of fast-tracking efforts to end TB, a prerequisite for success is that all stakeholders make concerted efforts and collaborate. Hence, the strategy also makes the case for a unified and aligned response in which key national and international partners and affected communities support Member States by undertaking the investments and partnerships that are necessary for accelerating innovation. The primary audiences for the document are Member States, particularly ministries of health, science and technology, finance and education.

“Research and innovation are vital if we are to break the stronghold of TB – the world’s top infectious killer -that continues to claim millions of lives each year. This global strategy will guide Member States and other relevant stakeholders in translating political commitments on TB research and innovation into concrete action backed by investment, as an integral part of efforts to end TB” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme “We welcome this renewed commitment by Member States at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many gaps in TB service provision that need to be addressed through innovation”.

Under the leadership of WHO, the strategy was developed during the past two years through a consultative process with Member States including managers of national tuberculosis programmes (NTPs) and other officials from within and beyond ministries of health such as ministries of science and technology; the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis (STAG-TB); the WHO Global TB Research Task Force; representatives of civil society and affected communities; research funding institutions; and other stakeholders in TB research and innovation. The strategy has also benefited from an open web consultation, where extensive comments were received on a zero draft of the strategy.

The Assembly also passed a resolution requesting WHO to provide a report on the implementation of the strategy to WHA, biennially until 2030.  The resolution also called for the support of the scientific community, international partners and other relevant stakeholders to undertake research and innovation aligned to the needs of the countries most affected by TB; to strengthen public-private partnerships; and to facilitate knowledge sharing. Furthermore, it requested WHO to provide technical and strategic assistance to Member States in the implementation of the strategy.

“This resolution reflects Member States’ recognition of research and innovation as a key priority for ending TB, and their commitment to take concerted action to address unmet needs. It will help pave the way for the successful implementation of the strategy,” said Dr Matteo Zignol, a.i. Unit Head, Prevention, Care and Innovations at WHO’s Global TB Programme.