Targeted innovation and better access to vector control tools essential in Asia Pacific

Published: 31, January 2018

Effectively controlling mosquitoes is essential to preventing the diseases they spread. Two of the existing measures for so-called ‘vector control’ are the use of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying with insecticides. Development of new tools and expanding access to all vector control methods are essential in Asia Pacific countries aiming to eliminate malaria and to prevent other insect-borne diseases.

This week, representatives from ministries of health, development organizations, industry and research centres met to explore the challenges and opportunities for stronger vector control in the region. Co-hosted by Unitaid and the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA), this inaugural policy dialogue is part of a broader partnership between APLMA and Unitaid, aimed at maximising access to innovative health products for malaria elimination and improved health security.

The collaboration builds on the work of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network (APMEN) vector control working group, which helps scientists, industry representatives as well as government representatives work together more closely to address priority policy challenges for vector control in the region.

Unitaid Executive Director, Lelio Marmora, underscored that improving access and promoting innovation are two sides of the same coin. “It is about understanding the challenges, identifying solutions and increasing access to new priority tools to eliminate malaria and other vector-borne diseases,” he said.

“Effective vector control is a key component of strengthening health systems, and contributes to enhanced regional health security against all vector-borne diseases, not only malaria,” added Dr Benjamin Rolfe, CEO of APLMA.

This event was an opportunity to bring together participants across different sectors, including industry representatives, for open discussions on ways to accelerate innovation. During a lunchtime ‘Exhibition’, industry participants shared details of their current vector control product pipeline in the Asia Pacific region.

Participants identified some of the key challenges to innovation and access including the specificities of vector behaviour in the Asia Pacific region and the time-consuming registration processes for new tools. They also discussed the possibility of joint registration processes for WHO pre-qualified products as well as opportunities to generate interest around innovative products among national regulatory agencies.

Dr Kesete Admasu, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria highlighted the importance of an enabling policy environment for the adoption of new tools and exchange of knowledge among countries, which can be enhanced through a regional mechanism.  This approach is an integral part of the RBM Partnership’s strategy, he noted.

Participants agreed that an ongoing, coordinated and cross-sectoral approach is essential to improving access and innovation of vector control tools in support of both malaria elimination and promoting overall health security for the Asia Pacific region. As a next step, Unitaid and APLMA proposed to jointly establish a platform for vector control to bring various actors together in the aim of bridging access to market for new products that are tailored to the Asia Pacific context. Future opportunities to continue this dialogue will take place at the Asia Vector Control Conference hosted by the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Innovation 2 Impact.

The event was held at the 2018 Prince Mahidol Award Conference, held annually in Bangkok to bring together leading public health leaders and stakeholders from around the world to discuss high priority global health issues, summarize findings and propose concrete solutions and recommendations.

Industry and other research and development representatives included: Sumitomo Chemical, Bayer Crop and Syngenta as well as WellTech Healthcare, BASF, Vestergaard, the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and Mahidol University.

In 2017, the World Health Assembly endorsed the Global vector control response 2017–2030, which outlines a new strategy to strengthen vector control worldwide through increased capacity, improved surveillance, better coordination and integrated action across sectors and diseases. This week’s dialogue supports this approach by identifying opportunities to strengthen the vector control response throughout the region.

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