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Preparing for emerging infectious diseases by aligning short-term public health and long-term R&D responses

Outbreaks of Emerging Infectious Disease (EIDs) offer opportunities and tensions for alignment between public health interventions and medical innovation. Collaboration and inclusive innovation is essential for better response in future outbreaks. This Veni project contributes to EID preparedness by investigating and aligning short-term public health and long-term innovation processes.

Effective responses against Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDs) consist of public health interventions in the shortest time‐frame possible, while starting focused R&D for introducing specific medical countermeasures on the longer term. Limited stakeholder involvement, however, leads to failures to take contextual aspects into account, missed opportunities for capacity building, and failures to contribute to long‐term global preparedness. Moreover, misalignment between short‐ and long‐term responses leads to costly delays and failures to deliver on unmet medical needs.

This project aims to contribute to global preparedness against EIDs by improving our conceptual understanding of the (mis)alignment between short‐term public health and long‐term R&D responses. Moreover, it assesses the extent of inclusive innovation in recent outbreaks and examines drivers and barriers for inclusive innovation processes.

The (mis)alignment between short- and long-term response processes is explored through an integrative literature synthesis, followed by expert interviews. Using three case studies (MERS-CoV, Zika, Ebola), reflections on inclusive innovation as evidenced in scientific literature, patents and clinical databases are studied. A realist evaluation approach, and transdisciplinary mixed-methods  are used to identify, prioritize and understand drivers and barriers to inclusive innovation. 

Athena’s role
The Athena Institute has complete ownership and responsibility over the project and execution of its work packages. Athena is the only institute that combines an international track-record in inclusive development, global health and entrepreneurship, thus providing and excellent environment to work on the crossroads between business, academia and societal impact. Access to stakeholders is enabled through established networks formalized partnerships with other projects, including but not limited to PREPARE (H2020 funded) and ECRAID-PLAN.

Lessons and outcomes
This project provides validated recommendations for improving including innovation by yielding a unique integrative perspective on the alignment, rather than the adversity between a public health response and medical R&D. By applying two perspectives that are often presented as being in contrast with each other it also provides further theoretical insight into their complementarity.

Results are relevant across scientific fields and deliverables include peer‐reviewed publications/presentations, popular‐scientific publications, conference presentations, and an inclusive innovation workshop. Transdisciplinary research methods lead to “impact by doing”. Established collaborations with relevant and embedded networks further facilitate knowledge dissemination and stakeholder participation.

Project details