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TALKING POINTS

The Pandemic: Breakthroughs & A Path Forward

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After a long, hard two years we can look forward to innovations in everything from vaccines, tests, equipment and building design – and the best news is that these health resources will be distributed more equitably.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on medicine and health technology, for obvious reasons: Who hasn’t had their lives impacted by the global health emergency? Over the past two years we’ve been watching what at times has seemed more like a miracle than a news story; the rapid, almost overnight development of COVID-19 tests and vaccines.

The conversation about global medicine and health will most likely continue to hold our attention, even as the pandemic itself begins to wane. Discoveries and innovations from the battle against COVID-19 are beginning to ripple across the health industry, into non-COVID related areas of health and medicine. New breakthroughs and technologies in everything from vaccines and testing to healthier building design are making headlines – and shaping our plans for the post-pandemic future.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough of the pandemic was the application of mRNA technology for use in vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Research into other applications for the game-changing mRNA technology has been jump-started by the COVID-19 vaccine's success. Now mRNA is being explored for use in a wide range of other health conditions. According to the website of the US National Institute of Health, which keeps track of worldwide research, there are 98 clinical trials of mRNA therapies currently in progress. In the pipeline – everything from personalized cancer vaccines to cures for life-threatening conditions that have defied researchers for decades, such as cystic fibrosis.

Vaccines are just one of many health-related issues fast-tracked by COVID-19 research. We’re about to see major advancements in indoor ventilation and building design. When researchers found that the coronavirus spreads through aerosol droplets, it brought attention to a long-neglected issue: indoor air quality. (At Taikoo Place, we are committed to healthy air, and that’s why we’ve placed monitors to check air quality in our buildings.)

Better building ventilation and air circulation design is going to be crucial in stopping potential “super spreader” events. In a recent issue of The Hill, Professor Joseph Allen, director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health observed that better air quality has a positive health impact that extends beyond protection from COVID-19. “Good indoor air quality also improves employee cognitive function, which flows directly to the bottom line performance of businesses,” he writes.

Medical testing is another area where the pandemic has pushed big changes. Tests are becoming easier, faster, cheaper, and accessible. We can expect tests to be a feature of the post-pandemic health landscape. Johns Hopkins researchers have designed a rapid, affordable blood test that can be used at an airport gate or a stadium to confirm within minutes if someone is vaccinated for COVID-19. New advances in testing aren’t limited to COVID-19, or even to the world of infectious diseases. Araclon Biotech, a Grifols Group company, is now working on a new blood test that will identify early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s exciting to imagine the changes that these medical and technical advances will make in our lives. But the most positive impact that the pandemic may leave us with is not a medicine, but a belief and commitment: that vaccines and health technology must be accessible to all, not just to people in affluent countries.

Mr. Krishnamoorthy Sundaresan, Pfizer’s Country Manager for Hong Kong and Macau, emphasized the importance of equitable access. “Pfizer's purpose is to bring breakthroughs that change patients' lives and Pfizer Hong Kong strongly believes in patient-centered healthcare and strives to set quality standards for patient safety. During the pandemic, we supported patient groups on the necessities including masks and testing kits. Also, we partnered with NGOs for various patient affordability programs in therapeutic areas of Rare Disease, Oncology and Inflammation & Immunology.”

“To help expand access globally, Pfizer has signed a supply agreement with UNICEF for up to 4 million treatment courses as well as a voluntary license agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) for its oral COVID-19 treatment for distribution in 95 low- and middle-income countries that account for approximately 53% of the world’s population, pending country regulatory authorization or approval,” added Sundaresan, “In Emerging Markets, our innovations don’t stop at the medicines. We focus on finding creative solutions to key public health challenges and scaling access to high quality healthcare for all.”

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