Collectively overcoming the challenges that know no borders

Dr Arthur Morrish, CEO, ASPIRE

One of the biggest lessons from the coronavirus pandemic has been that we can accomplish a seemingly impossible task through collaboration. As we bid farewell to the current year, many of us are convinced that Covid will not continue to be a pandemic for much longer, thanks to the rapid progress in vaccine rollout.

Under normal circumstances, developing a vaccine would take up to 10-15 years. But time was a luxury the world could not afford as the virus claimed millions of lives. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Seldom has the proverb ever been proven so emphatically true as it has been in current times, when scientists from around the world came together to develop solutions, setting aside all other priorities.

The sheer number of experts from across the earth addressing a single issue simultaneously with such urgency is unprecedented. Together, they scrambled to identify hundreds of viral genome sequences and share them with other researchers. Numerous clinical trials were launched, bringing together hospitals, laboratories and individual scientists from across the globe.

Governments have done their part, too, with G7 nations taking a crucial step this year in support of collaboration on largescale global vaccine trials as they announced the Therapeutics and Vaccines Clinical Trials Charter. This will hasten the process of sharing results from clinical trials on vaccines to better tackle the events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and future threats to global health.

This is not the only instance where collaboration has worked wonders, however. Project Orbis, which the United States Food and Drug Administration launched in 2019, in partnership with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom gives patients faster access to promising cancer treatment across the world.

It resulted in increased efficiency through concurrent submission, sharing and review of data, and through standardising crucial clinical trials.

Between June 2019 and June 2020, regulatory authorities from participating countries approved 38 cancer medicines. It also helped bring a novel lung cancer drug, Sotorasib, to market in record time. Anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer or Covid-19 will know what this could mean.

These examples showcase just what we can accomplish by working together. In an ideal scenario, scientists could have prevented the pandemic from spiralling into the global crisis it became if they had pre-empted an outbreak and acted in advance and in unison.

Innovations are increasingly taking place through collaborative efforts in other domains of science. New technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain have been bringing about a new wave of disruption that is set to radically alter the way we do business or manage governance. These technologies represent the promise of unprecedented disruptive innovations, and we can leverage their optimal benefit by working together.

It is this perception that prompted the UAE to launch the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate, where more than 40 countries and partners are working to foster global agricultural innovation to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It is the same idea that is the driving force behind unifying the entire world at COP 26 in Glasgow this month to take on the effects of climate change. Only by working together, can we collectively overcome the challenges that know no borders.

Dr Arthur Morrish, CEO, ASPIRE
Dr Arthur Morrish, CEO, ASPIRE.