In a week of major change and upheaval in the UK’s approach to international development – the majority of which will be covered in a different blog – one particular announcement has great significance for RESULTS UK’s TB work.
Last weekend the Government announced the creation of The Ross Fund; the latest in a line of Fund’s named after the UK’s scientific greats. Over 100 years ago Sir Ronald Ross discovered that malaria was caused by a parasite and paved the way for new treatments for the disease. He is considered one of the founding fathers of infectious disease control.
The Fund that bears Sir Ronald’s name will be hoping to foster the next generation of scientific luminaries. The £1bn commitment over five years will inject major new funds into efforts to develop new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for the world’s deadliest diseases. Although much of the media hype has been around malaria, the money in the Ross Fund will also be available for TB R&D.
The Fund also presents a milestone for us. R&D has always been an important focus of our work, but just over two years ago it took more of a prominent role within our work. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB (APPG TB), which we host, launched a major inquiry into R&D in January 2014. The inquiry’s objective was to raise the profile of the critical market failures which hamper R&D for TB and other infectious diseases.
The inquiry provoked some controversy. More importantly, however, it established the APPG TB and its officers as the leading voice in parliament on global health R&D. Our parliamentary champions on TB worked throughout 2014 and early 2015 to convert that authoritative position into commitments for real change from the UK Government.
Those commitments were realised in April 2015 when the three major parties launched their manifestos. The Conservative Manifesto – which has proved to be particularly relevant given the election result – included the commitment: “to lead a major new programme to accelerate research and development of drugs and vaccines to eliminate the world’s deadliest diseases.”
The Ross Fund is the realisation of that commitment, although there are many details still to be published about how the Fund will operate. Nonetheless, everyone at RUK, including all our grassroots, should be proud of the role we played in helping establish a new Fund that may well, in years to come, have helped develop cures for the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.