Saving lives through innovation

Specifically, the bill supports the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the private sector and collaboration with other agencies to develop new life-saving and cost-effective health technologies to improve the health of some of the most vulnerable people across the globe.  

Health technologies run the gamut from drugs, to vaccines, to medical devices. The right tool, administered in the right way, can help prevent devastating illnesses and other health problems. Often, they are quite simple, easy-to-use and may not even begin as solutions to a health issue.

Take, for example, the vaccine vial monitor (VVM), a dime-sized sticker originally designed for use on perishable foods. Today, thanks to a partnership between the New Jersey-based manufacturer Temptime, the international nonprofit organization PATH, and USAID, the color-changing stickers have now been used on more than 3 billion doses of vaccine throughout developing countries to indicate when a vaccine has been exposed to too much heat and may no longer be effective. It is estimated that use of VVMs over a ten-year period could help to avert 140,000 deaths globally and save the global health community $50 million.

The VVM is only one of many health technologies making a real difference in people’s lives across the globe. Through our government’s support, technologies with the promise of making a tangible impact are in various stages of the research and development (R&D) pipeline. This public investment in health technologies thrives because of private sector participation by companies like Temptime. This bill would encourage such participation.

Aside from their clear health benefits around the world, health technologies are also creating skilled, high-wage American jobs. For example, according to Research!America, 211,000 jobs in New Jersey are supported by health R&D, many of which are in global health. Several industry leaders in global health R&D are based in New Jersey, contributing more than $29.2 billion dollars to the state’s economy in 2009 alone. With sufficient funding for global health R&D, we can achieve a dramatic increase in the number of lives saved in the developing world, and also benefit from job creation and economic growth in the United States. 

In addition to benefiting populations abroad, investments in global health improve health care at home. For example, one manufacturer of a needle-free jet injector, PharmaJet, was founded to aid vaccine delivery in the developing world but has found a growing market in this country as a safe and effective alternative to needle and syringe.  

Thanks to sustained investment in health technologies, we are achieving some amazing breakthroughs in global health. We are on the verge of erasing polio from the planet; for the first time, a malaria vaccine candidate has advanced to the final stage of clinical trials; and a fast-acting test for tuberculosis is revolutionizing the way the disease is diagnosed and treated in low-resource settings.

We must continue to fight for funding for health technologies so that they can continue to do what they do best—save lives—but also because they confer a real benefit to America’s economy. 

Investing in health technologies, as proposed in H.R. 2144, is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

Rep. Albio Sires (D) represents the 13th District of New Jersey.


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