Health care leaders discuss pandemic response at World Bio Summit 2023

12 Dec 2023

“It is crucial to acknowledge that Covid-19 has not totally ended yet. The potential of another infectious disease still threatens our lives and well-being,” the minister added, urging more vital international collaboration between individuals, businesses and societies in building resilience and preparedness for the next pandemic.

This year’s summit was the second held in Seoul.

On Tuesday, summit participants attended three sessions covering the development and manufacturing of therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines, alongside two side events on vaccine research and the low-carbon bio sector.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the public and has demonstrated very clearly the value and importance that diagnostics play in a pandemic situation and outbreak situation, and much beyond,” Catharina Boehme, assistant director general for external relations and governance at the WHO, said during a discussion on developing international support strategies for the diagnostics industry.

Boehme added that the vast access gap in diagnostics worldwide must be reduced, saying around half of the global population has little or no access to diagnostics.

Enhancing diagnostics capacity has grown more urgent as the WHO approved a resolution in May to strengthen diagnostics capacity globally, putting the matter at the forefront of all member states.

During the summit, speakers and participants also highlighted the role of Korea in addressing pandemic responses at all levels, from the government to business.

Willo Brock, the executive vice president of the nonprofit organization FIND, also stressed that Korean businesses are essential in building a system that will execute pandemic responses within 100 days of WHO declaring a public health emergency.

The 100-day mission is the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)’s plan to develop vaccines within 100 days from when the need for vaccines is realized. Global biopharmaceutical companies like Moderna have partnered with CEPI to support its 100-day goal.

Other speakers stressed the role of the government in bringing people together to overcome the pandemic crisis.

“If the people don’t participate, families and communities don’t change in behavior, then we cannot bring everyone to get vaccinated and get themselves to combat the pandemic,” said Youk Sambath, secretary of state of Cambodia's Ministry of Health, adding that her country has made efforts to educate people to respect health measures and protect themselves.

Carmen Perez Casas, senior strategy lead and head of pandemic, prevention, preparedness and response of Unitaid, told reporters Tuesday that low and middle-income countries have limited access to medicine and diagnostics.

Unitaid is a global initiative to improve access to high-quality health care products in low- and middle-income countries.

“Countries like Korea have very important capacity for global health issues,” said Casas.

“But innovation alone will not be impactful to help those in the low-income countries.”


WORLD BIO SUMMIT 2023 Secretariat


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