WHO Launches Health Product Profile Directory To Stimulate New Drug Research

The World Health Organization has launched an online Health Product Profile Directory to guide the development of new health products for which there are limited markets or incentives for research and development. The directory aims to promote research and development for products to combat neglected diseases and threats to global health, including antimicrobial resistance and diseases with pandemic potential, said a press release announcing the new web-based tool.

It provides a searchable database of profiles for vaccines, drugs, diagnostics and other health products that have been identified as priorities in tackling pressing health issues, either by WHO or other leading global health institutions. “Currently, the Directory contains 196 product profiles developed by 24 agencies, of which 191 describe a product with an infectious disease as the target. The top four diseases with product profiles are tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and Chagas. The directory contains only 5 product profiles for conditions other than infectious diseases (one vaccine for breast cancer and four contraception technologies),” the WHO press release said.

The directory is a free-to-use online resource developed by TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, and is the first product to be launched by WHO’s new Science Division, led by new WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan.

“As the first global public good launched by WHO’s new Science Division, the Health Product Profile Directory exemplifies our effort to shape the global health research agenda to achieve health for all,” Swaminathan said. “While the Directory is launched with a focus on infectious diseases, we will update and grow the content, so I invite submissions of product profiles on other priority areas such as non-communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance.”

Brief summaries of the published profiles outline “8-10 key characteristics (such as target population and measures of efficacy and dosage) for the development of health products, including medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. Building in these characteristics at an early stage of the development process is essential to ensure that the final products will be accessible to the populations that need them,” according to the release.

“The Ebola outbreak of 2014-15 and other recent pandemics have highlighted the urgent need for centralized information to guide and improve coordination of efforts to develop new health products for neglected diseases and populations. Until now, less than 10 percent of new products that have been submitted for regulatory review have referenced product profiles in the R&D process. This absence of a standard way to describe the health products that are priorities for global health has contributed to uncoordinated and ineffective research and development in these areas,” the release said.

Researchers are invited to submit profiles for inclusion in the directory, with more information available here.

Image Credits: WHO.

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