Michelle Wu
April 2, 2008
The Daily Princetonian

Eminent leaders in various scientific fields shared their views on the partnership between academia and industry as well as the ways both the public and private sectors can promote global health at a symposium yesterday afternoon in Dodds Auditorium.

Wilson School professor and former Sen. Bill Frist ’74 explained the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a government organization composed of individuals in the public and private sectors that works with some of the poorest countries in the world to promote sustainable economic development and healthcare. Frist is on MCC’s board of directors.

“We’ve had really good success,” Frist said, citing the corporation’s promotion of immunization rates and public expenditure on health as criteria for a country’s eligibility for MCC aid.

Frist described visiting African countries and witnessing leaders “investing in education, investing in housing” and making other changes to qualify for aid from the MCC.

The discussion panel, titled “No Country Left Behind: Transforming Global Health,” was moderated by President Tilghman. In addition to Frist, the panel featured Andrew Maguire of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Anthony Fauci, who delivered the symposium’s keynote address on HIV/AIDS in 2008 earlier in the afternoon, and Claire Fraser-Liggett, head of the Institute of Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland.

Fraser-Liggett said she has “great hope that genomics will reveal some of the solutions to some of the world’s most important global health problems.”

She also highlighted the importance of collaboration between academia and industry in research efforts.

“Some of these partnerships have been much more successful than others,” Fraser-Liggett said, citing the need for well-defined research and agreements concerning publication and intellectual property in all collaborations between academics and industry researchers.

Maguire, executive director of GAVI’s “Immunize Every Child” campaign, said that organizations like GAVI must forge an innovative partnership between academia, government and industry.

Such a partnership, he explained, could help accomplish one of the alliance’s missions, to “get the underused vaccines out there, the ones we all take for granted but [that] hundreds of millions of kids around the world don’t get.”

One issue raised during the discussion was whether research should be focused on one disease, even in an area like sub-Saharan Africa, where there are a number of health concerns.

“On the one hand,” Fauci said, “you don’t want to say ‘I’m going to fix everything or I’m going to fix nothing,’ but people are starting to realize now that global health is intimately connected with global development.”

In response to a question about efforts at prevention rather than treatment, Fauci said that though there were considerable resources devoted to prevention, culture must also be considered.

“You have to understand the centuries-old engrained cultural traditions,” Fauci explained. “You’ve got to train the younger leaders to understand the connection between the development of their own country and the health of their own country.”

Frist added that it was important to understand and address faith-based community initiatives.

“Much of the infrastructure of sub-Saharan Africa is churches,” he said, “and that church has a leader, and that leader has a voice.”

While the symposium was simply a forum for discussion, attendees generally expressed satisfaction with the event.

“I don’t know if we actually accomplished something today and moved anything forwards,” Sean Liu GS said, “but if anything, we raised awareness throughout the Princeton campus. Either way, it’s exciting."