Expo helps find solutions to ‘fundamental challenges’ - GulfToday

Expo helps find solutions to ‘fundamental challenges’


Novartis regional officials at the Novartis Booth in the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

World expositions have become the harbinger since a century and 70 years back for what are to improve and better lives. For this, the management of a leading global pharmaceutical company has been grateful for having given the opportunity to share with the world not only what they have been into and their plans but more importantly, helping spread awareness on otherwise preventable diseases.

“I hope our visitors learnt something from us. Our goal was to take them through an education journey focusing on our four pillars of Data Science & Artificial Intelligence, Cell & Gene Therapy, Building Trust with Society, and Patient Community,” Novartis Pharma-Patient Access and Public Affairs head Ibrahim Aqel said.

Aqel and his colleagues Novartis Pharma chief scientific officer Ahmed Baly, Novartis-Middle East and Africa Public Affairs head Marina Al Bada, and Novartis Gulf-Communications and Patient Engagement head Joy Khoury, met Gulf Today for the participation of the Basel, Switzerland-headquartered firm at the Swiss Pavilion in the Opportunity District of Expo2020Dubai.

Khoury said: “The Expo is a global event dedicated to finding solutions to fundamental challenges facing humanity by offering a journey theme. We are honoured that we were able to exhibit our innovation in our home country pavilion before 100,000 visitors that also had the chance to get into our booth.”

Carrying on with the company’s tagline “Reimagining Medicine,” which according to Al Bada “is underpinned by a strong commitment to science-based innovation (for) breakthrough treatments” in order that new medicines are assured, the Novartis Booth which ran from Oct.1 to Nov.3 had among others, interactive touchscreen displays, video rolls and sensory exhibit.

Intriguing are the Artificial Intelligence touch points on leprosy, malaria, sickle cell disease, as well as the cell & gene therapy. Via the Healthcare Access Pioneer, a short film by Novartis-affiliated Sandoz, concerning the works and commitment of paediatric oncologist Dr Mae Dolendo at the Southern Philippines Medical Centre in Davao City, Mindanao, brings to life how is it be a healthcare practitioner.

The company officials said it is at the core of their mission to “support healthcare pioneers (wherever they are).”

Caused by the Mycrobacterium leprae, leprosy is now considered a rare infectious disease by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with 202,256 new cases from 161 countries in 2019. Of the 202,256, 14,893 are children.

The Novartis Foundation, created 40 years back to serve the underserve population of the low-income or poor countries, was among the primary actors in the establishment of the Global Partnership to Zero Leprosy in 2018. Since then, it is among the private individuals that continually “work on programmes that focus on diagnosing and treating patients earlier through innovative diagnostic methods and screening initiatives, including contract tracing and providing preventative treatment.”

Its Leprosy Post-Exposure Prophylaxis programme currently operates in Indonesia, Brazil, Nepal, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India and Myanmar.

According to the WHO and based on the “World Malaria Report 2020,” global cases of malaria increased by one million from 228 million to 229 million between 2018 and 2019. Majority of these were in Africa where, as of 2019, 274,000 children under the age of five died due to having been bitten by the Anopheles mosquito.

Novartis Malaria has delivered one billion course of anti-malarial treatment including 430 million paediatric treatments with nil profits since 1999.

WHO had classified Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) as a “public health priority” while this has yet to be included in the “global health agenda.”

This genetically-induced life-threatening condition causes vascular damage and repeated injury to blood vessels and organs.

Records pre-dating 2010 had revealed 14 million newborns worldwide, with 1,000 children being born every day in Africa, to be SCD sufferers by 2050 if the situation remains un-reversed. Currently, about 80 per cent or 912,000,000 of the 1.14 billion Sub-Saharan Africans live with it and “more than 50 per cent of children with SCD in Africa die before their fifth birthday due to preventable complications,” said Baly.

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