Inaugural IPASA Summit brings together public and private sectors to accelerate medical innovation

A world without medical innovation would be catastrophic for humankind, said Dr Konji Sebati, CEO of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association South Africa (IPASA), speaking at the conclusion of the IPASA Innovative Medicines Summit being held on September 1.


Medical research and development (R&D) relating to a wide range of chronic diseases endemic to Africa were the central theme at the IPASA conference, held at the start of South Africa’s annual Innovation Month during September. IPASA is a voluntary trade association that represents a diverse group of 25 leading pharmaceutical companies which are dedicated to exploring, developing and bringing innovative, quality medicines to the South African market.


Sebati, a medical practitioner by training, has over 25 years’ experience in both the public and private sectors, having managed 21 primary health care clinics, commissioned a new 200-bed hospital, Odi Hospital, Ga-Rankuwa, for which she also served as Hospital Administrator.


“If one looks back just 50 to 70 years, people died from bacteria and viruses for which we today have readily available vaccines and cures. Ease of prevention and cure often means killer diseases are taken for granted, but the millions of saved lives are due only to medical innovation. As an association committed to innovation, we are keen to maintain robust dialogue performed in good faith so as not to lose sight of why we innovate. There are no losers from medical development,” said Sebati.


“This inaugural IPASA Summit has highlighted the value of innovation to all stakeholders – from public to government and from the pharmaceutical industry to the medical profession – particularly the need to continue and to accelerate innovation. However, a particular prerequisite of innovation is its need for support and funding, both by the private sector and public sectors.


“The quantum of support by the government, whether it be 10%, 20% or more, is less significant than the fact that it is supporting innovation and mitigating some of the risk of medicine development. We at IPASA think both sectors should be involved as medical innovation is both a humanitarian requisite and one of the most important levers of economic development,” said Sebati.


As an association, IPASA aims to promote a sustainable environment for the pharmaceutical industry to invest in the R&D of innovative pharmaceuticals, contribute to a patient-centred health system and to bring the benefits of break-through treatments to patients across South Africa.


“For us to work towards our aim of a healthier population, it is important for that population to understand and appreciate the role of medicine innovation in their own lives. Not only have we eradicated many diseases which previously were killers, but there has been a pipeline of new innovations which continue to contain and may ultimately eradicate many existing life-threatening diseases.


“This is not widely understood or appreciated, due to a number of factors. One is the controversy regarding the cost and limited access for low income groups to essential drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and medical devices in Africa. The industry has made considerable progress in broadening access in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in combating HIV, something that is being accomplished without sacrificing innovation. IPASA aims to instill a greater understanding that much of the cost of medicines contributes to funding future innovation and cures for current diseases and future mutations.


“The need for innovation stems from the nature of bacteria which can evolve and which in many cases are several steps ahead of current medical research. It is not a static environment we are dealing with. We want the broad public to understand that we innovate not for the sake of profit, or for its own sake. Our scientists are dedicated to finding solutions to medical needs – that is what they trained for and is their vocation,” said Sebati.


“I am confident that this conference was an important step forward in creating a greater understanding and appreciation of the need for medical innovation, and we will build on this over the coming years,” concluded Sebati.