Infectious diseases account for more than 17 million deaths worldwide each year. Though the economic impacts of the current SARS outbreak are only now beginning to be assessed the effects of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases on economic growth and the very fabric of society are well documented. If this downward pressure on sustainable growth is to be reversed, the international community will need to redouble their efforts. Harnessing the impressive recent advances in life science research and technology, particularly in OECD countries, could help, but will need coordinated action to achieve.
This report presents a selection of examples of how biotechnology and genomics science has been used to fight infectious disease. These are presented as case studies and are based on discussions at the OECD Conference on "Biotechnology for Infectious Diseases: Addressing the Global Needs", held in Lisbon in October 2002. The case studies make it clear that life science research indeed has the potential to help deliver on successful strategies to fight disease, through surveillance, detection and diagnosis, prevention or treatment. But they also underline the fact that significant barriers to the delivery of effective products for emerging and neglected diseases need to be overcome. A number of approaches to help deliver this are discussed. Political will needs to go hand in hand with robust analysis and coordinated international action if we are to deliver on the most vital pillars of sustainability - good health for all.
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