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Roche, Global Fund to Build Local Diagnostic Processes

Transporting HIV tests

Transporting HIV tests samples in Nigeria (Anthony Abu, USIAID.gov, Flickr)

12 May 2022. The medical products company Roche is partnering with the Global Fund to develop systems and processes for disease diagnostics in low-resource regions. While the collaboration is expected to last five years, financial and intellectual property terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

Roche is a global developer of drugs and diagnostics based in Basel, Switzerland. In 2014, the company established its global access initiative to expand testing for HIV-AIDS in low-resource regions of the world, in support of the United Nations efforts to combat AIDS. Since then, Roche expanded its global-access program to include tests for tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus, and most recently SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Roche says it designed the program to support sustainable local solutions connecting supply chains to point-of-care delivery. The company says its efforts focus on diagnostics and lab testing networks to build capacity and strengthen local health care delivery.

The Global Fund — full name: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria — says it raises and allocates more that $4 billion a year to fight these infectious diseases in low-and middle-income countries. The group estimates about 2 billion people are infected with tuberculosis worldwide, with 37 million people living with HIV, of which 6 million are undiagnosed. In addition, says the Global Fund, the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted HIV and tuberculosis health programs, citing data showing HIV tests declining 22 percent and 100,000 more deaths from tuberculosis occurring in low-resource countries since 2020.

Build more capacity at the local level

The Global Fund, based in Geneva, says it works with individual country governments and civil societies to devise effective interventions addressing HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria at the local level. The group says in 2019 to 2021, it allocated about three-quarters of its funds (74%) to Sub-Saharan Africa and 16 percent to the Asia-Pacific region, with the remaining 10 percent divided between Latin America, North Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

In their collaboration, the Roche global access program and Global Fund plan to build more capacity for HIV and tuberculosis testing at the local level to deliver diagnostics results and better manage medical waste. To meet these goals, the partners expect to develop more effective processes for collection, transporting, and testing patient specimen samples, as well as returning results in time for meaningful interventions.

As part of this program, Roche and the Global Fund say they will address challenges including access to roads, workforce capacity, IT systems, and network infrastructure needed to perform and deliver results for HIV and tuberculosis tests. In addition, the project expects to produce new solutions for medical waste and used testing instruments, to reduce their environmental and economic burdens on local communities. The partners plan to work with government health ministries on implementing new technologies and knowledge transfer in two or three pilot projects, then scale up the program to 10 countries over five years.

“Getting people to test for HIV and TB,” says Global Fund executive director Peter Sands in a Roche statement, “is fundamental to containing transmission and enrolling people on treatment, which are crucial steps to saving lives and ending these diseases as public health threats.” Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics adds, “Connecting our experts with critical local stakeholders, we are aiming to help build sustainable solutions that could be scaled across countries.”

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