Nonprofit Startup GHIAA Looks to Accelerate Global Health Drug Development Efforts

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by David Dean

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- The Ebola outbreak in 2014 that killed approximately 11,312 people in west Africa brought home the cold reality that a global pandemic wasn’t just a figment of someone’s imagination. Rather, such a health crisis was much closer to reality than any nation in the world, industrialized or not, wanted to admit. The situation spurred action, including the ultimate creation of an organization in North Carolina’s life science hotbed of Research Triangle Park looking to help bring more medicines and immunizations to more areas of the world quickly and cost effectively.

The Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance Accelerator (GHIAA) just recently registered as a non-profit in the state, but has been operating for a couple of years as a project arising out of Duke University’s Bass Connections program. Part think tank, part advocacy organization, GHIAA has created a source of information and tools to help organizations and countries around the world cooperate in forming alliances to accelerate drugs and vaccines through the development pipeline in time to treat outbreaks like Ebola.

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Julia Barnes-Weise
“The alliances that were formed in response to the Ebola outbreak brought different parties together to develop vaccines to fight the disease, but what slowed them down were the contractual process and issues enabling their development,” GHIAA Executive Director Julia Barnes-Weise explained.

When the outbreak occurred, Barnes-Weise -- recently a Visiting Associate Professor of the Practice at Duke and formerly Director of Licensing at Glaxo Wellcome (now GSK) -- was working on a project at Duke University looking at best practices for taking existing innovations and getting them to market most efficiently. The more she studied the Ebola crisis alliances, the more Barnes-Weise, who was originally a contracts lawyer with experience negotiating intellectual property licenses and alliance agreements, began to realize there was a need for an organization to help biopharma companies, technology transfer offices, drug developers, and governments connect and share best practices for the common good.

“I feel like I’m doing translational business development,” Barnes-Weise said. “We’re trying to help these different organizations translate their policies and objectives into alliance solutions that actually work.” For example, if a small clinical development organization in a less developed country has never worked with a large pharmaceutical company to test medicines, they can be unfamiliar with the issues they will face in negotiating agreements and fulfilling their obligations to gather medical data needed to get the drug approved. This unfamiliarity could lead to delays in developing drugs to address fast-spreading diseases. The function of GHIAA would be to serve as a clearinghouse of information in instances like this, helping accelerate the process so that drugs can be approved and delivered to the people who need them as quickly as possible.

Startup TechWire 2017 Sponsorships Now AvailableBarnes-Weise has spent time working with the World Health Organization on dealing with global pandemics and how to connect organizations working on cures.  GHIAA has just began a fund raising effort to share their MAP (Master Alliance Provisions) Guide online and to help fund other ongoing projects. On April 4th she will be participating in a global health drug development workshop co-hosted by GHIAA at the NC Biotech Center, joining members from the Triangle Global Health Consortium and other experts to explore issues in the global development and partnering of new medicines and vaccines.

More information on the April 4 event is available on the Triangle Global Health Consortium website.

For more information on GHIAA, visit the organization’s new website at

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