[Ip-health] Health Policy Watch: Executive Director Of Unitaid Lelio Marmora Stepping Down In March 2020

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Fri Nov 22 22:05:06 PST 2019


Executive Director Of Unitaid Lelio Marmora Stepping Down In March 2020
22/11/2019 by Grace Ren

Lelio Marmora is stepping down as Executive Director of Unitaid in March
2020, sources told Health Policy Watch. Marmora, who has led the
organization since 2014, told staff on Monday that he would be leaving to
seek “new challenges.”

His departure is not likely to bring “unexpected or drastic changes” to
Unitaid’s funding priorities over the next few months, Unitaid Board Member
for NGOs Fifa Rahman told Health Policy Watch. The organization has already
set its strategy for the next two years, and has identified an acting ED
committed to the same goals.

Rahman confirmed that Philippe Duneton, current deputy executive director
of Unitaid, will step in as interim Executive Director. Duneton has been
with the organization since its founding in 2006, and has taken on this
role at least once before.

Still, it will be important for Unitaid to find a new ED who understands
the “unique role [of the organization] in funding change in how medicines
are developed and made accessible for people,” Ellen t’Hoen, former
executive director of the Unitaid-founded Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), told
Health Policy Watch.

The former founding executive director of MPP, which negotiates with patent
holders for licenses on life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income
countries, further added that Unitaid is the only funder that explicitly
focuses on thorny issues such as intellectual property.

Additionally, according to observers, Marmora did exert a strong influence
over the organizational culture. While Marmora doubled the staff during his
tenure, sources close to the organization told HPW that there was
dissatisfaction among staff about the management style, and hopes that
there would be some improvements.

Rahman told Health Policy Watch that the Board will be “monitoring risks”
to ensure that any organizational change moves in a “positive direction.”
She further added that the Board will be making a final decision on a new
ED in 6-8 months.

The announcement was first made to Unitaid’s staff on Monday, and a second
announcement was made by Marmora to the Board of Unitaid at the annual
Board meeting on November 20-21. The announcement comes less than a month
after Unitaid’s success in helping to negotiate a new deal with rifapentine
drug manufacturer Sanofi to slash prices for the essential tuberculosis
drug by up to 70% in 100 low- and middle-income countries. The volume-based
deal between Unitaid, the Global Fund, and Sanofi was announced at the
Union World Conference for Lung Health on October 31.

UNITAID’s Role in Global Health Financing

In its 13-year history, Unitaid has emerged as a major donor of upstream
health product innovation and downstream access to medicines work in the
“big 3” – HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria. Among other projects, the
organization funds access to medicines work around intellectual property
and pharmaceutical innovation.

Notably, Unitaid does not have a United States representative on its board,
which may be why the organization can fund work on controversial issues
such as intellectual property and pharmaceutical development. Experts in
access to medicines work further added that unlike the other, larger “big
3”-focused organization, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
Malaria, Unitaid is a much smaller and more nimble organization.

It has historically helped negotiate major deals to reduce antiretroviral
drug prices and is currently the largest multilateral funder of
tuberculosis research and development. Some of its major grantees include
The South Centre, the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), the Drugs for
Neglected Diseases Initiative, the Stop TB Partnership, and the Foundation
for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND). Unitaid also funds a significant portion
of WHO’s Prequalification Programme, which provides international
regulatory guidance on the safety and efficacy of new health products.

Initially formed by France, Brazil, Chile, the UK, and Norway at the height
of the global HIV/AIDs crisis in 2006, Unitaid uses so-called “innovative
financing” mechanisms to raise money for the “big three” – HIV/AIDs,
tuberculosis, and malaria. As of 2019, the organization reports it has
received some US$3 billion from donors, with 70% of its funding coming
directly from a “solidarity levy” on airline tickets – a funding mechanism
first piloted by France and since adopted by nine additional countries.
Other member states earmark a portion of specific tax revenues for the
organization, such as Norway, which contributes part of its carbon
emissions tax revenue to Unitaid.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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