August 24, 2011

In a keynote address at the Partnering for Global Health Forum this past June, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., emphasized the importance of collaborative global health research to NIH and the United States.

Answering the question of why NIH should support global research, Dr. Collins noted, “What we learn in carrying out research in global health benefits our own citizens as well.” Quoting Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., Dean, Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Collins emphasized “Global is not the opposite of domestic.”

Dr. Collins talked about the advances in new technologies that are paving the way for greater global achievements, particularly in rural and remote areas. He described cell phones that can alert practitioners to whether patients are following their treatment regimens or can transmit images miles away for help with diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Collins also spoke about the need for networks that can empower the capacity of developing countries to play a larger role in research. “The idea that the research can be done by individuals in a country with the resources and the skills to do so is a vastly better one than having this kind of capability only exercised on behalf of those countries by others outside,” said Dr. Collins. As an example, he introduced the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative begun by NIH in partnership with Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom. The project aims to create and support the development of expertise among African scientists and to establish networks of African investigators to facilitate the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases with the goal of improving the health of African populations.

Listen to Dr. Collins’ full remarks at the Partnering for Global Health Forum. Also listen to a podcast interview with Dr. Collins by Senior Managing Editor Angie Drakulich, as part of the 2011 BIO Convention and BioVentures for Global Health Partnering for Global Health Forum. Dr. Collins discusses NIH’s efforts to improve global health care, including an update on the human genome project, a focus on infectious and rare diseases in the developing world, and research and development grants for small business.

Sponsored by BIO and BioVentures for Global Health, the meeting connected leaders from global health, biopharmaceutical, academic, and donor communities, and featured presentations from global health innovators as well as public and private funders supporting global health research and development.