It’s Time to Invest in Reproductive Medicine and Maternal Health

Amidst lack of funding for women’s health research, industry must collaborate now to advance RMMH.

Recent estimates suggest that by the year 2100, 3% of the world population (400 million individuals) may be alive as a result of assisted reproductive technologies.1

Worldwide, approximately 48 million couples and 186 million individuals experience fertility issues each year.2 I see the contribution that assisted reproductive therapy (ART) is making to new families as a testament to the life-changing powers of biopharma innovation.

My company, Ferring, has been partly instrumental in this heartening progress. Our gonadotropins have contributed to the birth of 3.7 million babies across the last 20 years—a figure almost equal to the population of Los Angeles.

The great divide in RMMH

My pride, however, is tempered by reality. As an industry, we are, as yet, at the tip of the iceberg in what remains to be done within the long-underserved area of women’s reproductive medicine and maternal health (RMMH). Women’s health research remains underfunded and undervalued. It currently accounts for just 4% of R&D funding for healthcare products and services, with 65% of this focused on fertility.3

To truly fulfill unmet patient need, the pharma industry, investors, and other stakeholders across the value chain—and society at large—must now collaborate to foster and drive RMMH innovation.

We must work together to enable strategic R&D investments that channel our incredible strengths toward a much fairer distribution of the novel solutions we are creating. We live in an era in which the global gap in the shares of RMMH progress could not be starker. Two striking statistics highlight this disparity:

Collaboration is key

While I am excited by the ripe opportunity that the exponential demand for ART heralds for new revenue streams, it is high time that we “mind the gap” in other untapped areas of RMMH. To do this, we must broaden our focus to fund new solutions and initiatives that holistically support women’s RMMH needs within a wider range of clinical indications and a more diverse patient population. Ultimately, these investments should increase collaborative partners, expand treatments with new technology, and equip global research facilities.

Delivery of real change

At Ferring, we are investing in innovative R&D, such as novel peptides, DNA recombinant technology, and the intersection of the microbiome and maternal health. We are leveraging new technologies, such as data science, artificial intelligence, and computational modelling.

Simultaneously, we aim to holistically meet unmet need in RMMH globally. No single pharma company can do this alone. This requires a creative and flexible model anchored in partnerships between diverse players to drive real-world treatment paradigms.

Ferring is, therefore, supporting 17 RMMH R&D projects in nine countries, with partners such as United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), universities and International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), with a $3 million commitment (€2.9 million). We also have a public-private partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Merck for Mothers to introduce a heat-stable formulation for carbetocin, a uterotonic drug to prevent excessive bleeding in PPH in developing countries. By seeking to prevent PPH, we hope, together, to protect the lives of 20 million women and their families by 2030.

New efforts, new partnerships

The challenge of RMMH is global. It requires multi-stakeholder collaboration by our industry on a global scale to drive investment and innovation. By forging new relationships and new partnerships, we can make a difference in expanding care options. We can help achieve the global health priority of improving RMHH outcomes for all women—wherever in the world they are.

Araz Raoof, president, Ferring Research Institute

References

  1. https://www.clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijwhw/international-journal-of-womens-health-and-wellness-ijwhw-5-089.php?jid=ijwhw
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infertility
  3. https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/life-sciences/people-driving-innovation-investment-womens-health
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/art/artdata/index.html (Note, “230 babies are born each day” calculated by dividing 83,946 by 365)
  5. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality
  6. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/quest/21st-century-healthcare/global-maternal-health.aspx