Pharmaceutical industry: how to improve our preparation for new health threats?

Pharmaceutical industries are naturally at the forefront of scientific innovation and emergency treatments, rather than long-term monitoring and surveillance activities. This is evidenced by the very short period of time – less than a year – which elapsed between the discovery of the first cases of an unknown disease in Wuhan and the deployment of the large-scale vaccination campaign.

The scale and complexity of prospective phenomena – beyond their scientific and logistical components – require the pooling of intelligence and anticipation by combining a diversity of expertise and talents, and this cannot be left to industrialists alone. .

Given the sums needed for research and even more so for clinical development, and given the need to mobilize resources – in particular human resources – which are undoubtedly disproportionate to the internal capacities of the actors and the difficulty of understanding multifactorial phenomena such as pandemic threats, the very principle of foresight, a difficult and uncertain exercise, highlights the key role of supporting public actors in efforts at the interface of several disciplines, involving multiple expertise.

The challenge of climate change

It is therefore not surprising that the necessary monitoring of macro-societal aspects is the prerogative of public, national or even supranational bodies, foundations or think tanks independent of the industrial sector: World Health Organization (WHO), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the A health initiativeamong others.

Analyze processes and influences of climate change on human healthfor example, it becomes evident that this Insight goes far beyond the narrow framework of responses in terms of therapeutic innovations, and concerns in many respects territorial, agricultural, environmental and health policies, geopolitical decisions and international cooperation – prerogatives of leaders, public health actors, associations and NGOs much more than private actors.

This fully corresponds to the letter and the spirit of mechanisms such as the One Health Initiative, whose fundamental principle has been known for more than a century: human and animal health are interdependent and linked to the health of the ecosystems in which species coexist.

Through closer collaboration between practitioners, engineers, sociologists and scientists studying human and animal health, this operational statement reveals the need for fundamental theory, concrete methods and practical examples.

Since the late 1990s, One Health has become the archetypal unifying concept for many governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with protecting human and animal health, wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability.

To counter the threat of new pandemics, WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health have joined forces in a global tripartite commitment. One Health remains a leading initiative in terms of research, pandemic capacity building and multi-stakeholder consortia.

This interdisciplinary approach is the product of more than a decade of experimentation, research and teamwork dedicated to providing a comprehensive (but still limited) overview of theory and best practice in fields encompassing human health and animal, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences, engineering. and preservation.

These interdisciplinary approaches prove useful to professionals and academics, as well as technical authorities and governments, by presenting many best practices in disease control, community services, conservation and education.

These interdisciplinary contributions have given One Health the means to become an incubator for innovation, research and training in health, by bringing together many actors in an ecosystem approach, at the interface of multiple skills and allowing cross-fertilization of ideas. between public and private. stakeholders, digital and health players, entrepreneurs and researchers, etc.

As one of the creators of this initiative rightly asserts, cross-fertilization generates, through meetings and informal exchanges, the spark necessary for the construction of a collective intelligence and a renewed “grammar”. of foresight.

Generation of combinatorial data

I think that improving intersectoral solidarity and the multidisciplinarity of teams is one of the challenges to be met in order to improve preparation for new threats from manufacturers in the health sector. To this end, data can also be a valuable ally.

Greater attention should therefore be given to the combination of predictive models and analysis of statistical data on the links between climatic and health conditions and the transmission of diseases on a regional or even global scale, in order to put in place surveillance and anticipation tools that are essential for analyzing future infectious risks. disease scenarios based on changing climatic conditions.

As we have shown in a recent postprecise and prospective modeling of a set of parameters – product of combinatorial health data and more general extrinsic data, often from the social sciences – would benefit the governing bodies and public health actors, medical and hospital personnel, who would be responsible for organizing the architecture and promoting exchanges.

This could include access to data for monitoring and anticipating health crises in order to promote therapeutic progress. If the reasons for the rapid development of vaccines by private operators are multiple, one can only be impressed by the incredible systematics of data collection and processing made possible by the recently acquired power of big data and artificial intelligence. in health.

Since the start of the epidemic, genomic engineering, clinical trials, production platforms, logistical optimization, tools for piloting and monitoring vaccination campaigns, early detection of contamination risks, education population therapy are all means, methods and metrics that have been informed by the collection and analysis of big data.

However, while respecting the imperatives of confidentiality, public players should give greater freedom of access to industrialists carrying therapeutic innovation, when the analysis of weak signals or the study of future scenarios so require.

In this regard, it is symptomatic and reassuring that many international initiatives – notably OneHealth – include several major health data operators among their main partners.