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Good medical care for everyone on Earth is the dream, but the reality looks very different. Many people around the world have no access to effective treatment, vaccines, or even an accurate diagnosis. The situation is similar for medical research – that, too, is primarily the preserve of industrialized nations in the West. Why is that, and how could the situation be changed? German science communication organization Wissenschaft im Dialog and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité invited a scientist, a pharmaceutical executive, and a policy expert to the MS Wissenschaft to talk about precisely that topic as part of the “Dialog an Deck” discussion series. The audience was expressly invited to join in the debate on the dream and the reality of fair and equitable healthcare for all.

The expert panel was made up of Prof. Ulrich Dirnagl, founding director of the BIH QUEST Center and head of the Department of Experimental Neurology at Charité, who champions the concept of open science, which is about making research findings available to everyone; Dr. Samuel Knauß of the Department of Neurology at Charité who, with the help of the BIH’s Digital Health Accelerators, founded the company mTOMADY, which aims to provide equitable access to quality healthcare for people in Africa; Dr. Claus Hinrich Michelsen, managing director of Economic Policy with the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (vfa); and political consultant Maike Voss of the German Alliance on Climate Change and Health (KLUG).

Access to study results and treatment

“For me, equitable healthcare for all doesn’t only mean access to the most effective treatment and therapies for everyone who needs it,” says Prof. Dirnagl. “It also means access to medical study results and the participation of patients and their families in the research process.”

The urgency of this topic is demonstrated in the discussions coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The development of vaccines represented an important step in the fight against the disease, but we have yet to tackle the central issue of how the vaccines can be made available to everyone. Should patents be suspended in order to reduce costs and ramp up global vaccine production? Or are patents and the profits they generate precisely the incentive pharmaceutical companies need to pursue their research? Dr. Michelsen of the vfa says: “Universal healthcare is the goal. We will get there faster if the people who develop medicines come along on the journey.”

The event was moderated by journalist Shelly Kupferberg. Prof. Christopher Baum, Chair of the BIH Board of Directors and Chief Translational Research Officer of Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, delivered the welcoming remarks.

Audience participation wanted

As part of “Science Year 2022 – Participate!,” since May 7 the MS Wissenschaft has been on tour throughout Germany. While the ship’s hold houses an interactive science exhibition, the deck is the venue for discussions on controversial topics relating to research, politics, and the economy. Participation of audience members is expressly desired at all events, and their involvement is actively promoted through various formats. The discussion “Medizin für alle? Wunsch und Wirklichkeit globaler Medizin” on the dream and reality of universal healthcare was therefore deliberately targeted at the general public rather than a specialist audience.

For more information about MS Wissenschaft click here.

For more information about mTOMADY click here.