The Integrated Initiative for Global Health is focused on addressing the need for treatment of the world’s neglected diseases by combining a focus on developing new therapeutics and diagnostics with scholarship in public health policy and access to medicine.

Although tremendous advances have been made in our understanding and treatment of diseases where there are research and market incentives for innovation, major challenges remain in improving health for poorer populations in the developing world where such incentives do not exist.

Complex issues, such as existing research priorities, limited private and public sector investments, inadequate health services, and poor scientific education and technological capacity in developing countries, stifle progress. In the face of these multiple challenges, diseases that are endemic in developing nations are repeatedly “neglected” by scientists and pharmaceutical companies based in developed nations.

Northeastern has a unique opportunity to combine our strength in drug discovery, delivery and diagnostics with specific hires in parasitology, toxicology, global health policy and intellectual property to focus on neglected, yet critically important diseases.

Interdisciplinary Approach

The Integrated Initiative for Global Health consists of a combination of a drug and diagnostics discovery platform, coupled with scholarship on critical topics that address socio-economic, political, ethical and legal issues that are intrinsic to global health. This combination will provide researchers and trainees a broad base for a holistic view towards global health. The initiative consists of two pillars:

The science pillar of the initiative has several facets. First, early-stage drug discovery efforts will uncover new investigational therapeutic agents for a wide variety of infectious diseases that contribute to illness and mortality across the world. Interdisciplinary research areas under this pillar include:

  • Anti-infective biology.
  • Hit-to-lead and lead optimization medicinal chemistry.
  • Formulation technologies.
  • Diagnostics discovery.
Outputs from this Pillar will include:
  • Preclinical drug candidates that can be advanced to clinical trials in collaboration with partner organizations.
  • New diagnostics that streamline disease diagnoses and surveillance.
  • Re-formulations of drug substances that improve their efficacy and safety in clinical use.
The public health and policy pillar of the initiative focuses on innovations to access medications and life-saving technologies, policies related to public health implementation, ethical aspects related to human rights and applications of resources, and supply chain management for the delivery of drugs and diagnostics to affected regions of the world:

  • Intellectual property and other incentive and access systems for medicines and diagnostics.
  • Public health policy.
  • Population health and epidemiology.
  • Implementation science.
  • Human rights, philosophy and ethics.
Outputs from this Pillar will include:
  • Promotion of progressive policies in setting global health priorities, especially research for neglected diseases and access to resulting medicines and diagnostics.
  • Application of the best science for disease surveillance and interventions.
    Innovative project/program designs in mainstreaming human rights in global health practice.

Northeastern’s Impact

We have identified two primary focal points for our initiative that bring to bear existing and expanding strengths at Northeastern University.

One focus will be in the area of drug discovery, drug delivery, and diagnostics. In particular, new drugs will be developed for priority diseases of the developing world, including protozoan diseases and tuberculosis, building on the foundation of existing efforts at Northeastern. For example, in one approach we are repurposing existing drugs and drug discovery knowledge, since the biochemical basis for these drugs are shared between neglected pathogens and humans. We apply state-of-the-art medicinal chemistry optimization in collaboration with world-leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to achieve our eventual goal of bringing a new drug to clinical trials. In parallel, we work in critically complementary areas of improving diagnostics that can reduce costs and improve disease diagnoses, and applying novel approaches to drug delivery will be explored.

The second primary focal point for our Initiative is under an umbrella of public health policy. We recognize that scholarship directed at informing healthcare strategies and investment of resources, and enhancing access to medicine is highly complementary to the discovery and delivery of new drugs and therapeutics. Assessment and improvement of health care delivery and infrastructure in developing nations, surveillance of disease burden and assessment of treatment impact, and finding new paradigms that encourage innovation and philanthropy are pivotal for relieving disease burden and improving global health.

Just as important of these specific research focal points is our plan to educate and train students and practitioners in these myriad, complex aspects of global health. The complex interplay of science and policy will be addressed in an integrated, cross-college curriculum that is focused on the next generation of global health leaders.