Partnerships in Action: Advancing Healthcare Through Collaborative Science in Emerging Markets
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Partnerships in Action: Advancing Healthcare Through Collaborative Science in Emerging Markets

Salman Rizvi, MD, MBA & Amrit Ray, MD, MBA, Research, Development and Medical, Upjohn Division, Pfizer Inc. [NYSE: PFE] and Anurita Majumdar, MD, Kelly H. Zou, PhD, PStat®, FASA
Salman Rizvi, MD, MBA & Amrit Ray, MD, MBA, Research, Development and Medical, Upjohn Division, Pfizer Inc. [NYSE: PFE]

Salman Rizvi, MD, MBA & Amrit Ray, MD, MBA, Research, Development and Medical, Upjohn Division, Pfizer Inc. [NYSE: PFE]

Partnerships in Health Care

The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the importance of partnerships as follows: “Global health partnerships, networks and alliances, and initiatives have been established to raise visibility of an unmet need, support coordination, provide financial support to countries, and/or provide common platforms for working together by combining the relative strengths of different stakeholders including the public sector, private sector entities, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropic foundations and academic institutions.”

Pfizer Upjohn (“Upjohn” thereafter) has established two important private-public partnerships via collaborations within the Emerging Markets to harness the power of an abundance of data to advance non-communicable disease (NCD) awareness, to improve integrated care, and to assure that the solutions for NCD care are piloted and achieved. First, the New York University Abu Dhabi and Upjohn launched a pioneering multi-sectoral partnership to drive advances in the management of non-communicable diseases.

The Devastation of Noncommunicable Diseases

This year, approximately 41 Million people will die from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and other chronic conditions collectively known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The leading cause of mortality and disability globally, an alarming 30% of NCD deaths are premature, occurring in people under the age of 70. The result is a devastating impact on patients, families, communities and global economies. Much of this mortality and disability is preventable. Yet, effective, sustainable intervention requires a groundswell of integrated action across multiple sectors - action on a level yet to be reached.

More than half of the NCD burden could be avoided through health promotion and prevention initiatives. In addition, modifiable behaviors, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol increase the risk of NCDs. These behaviors are, in part, a result of complex circumstances, including social and economic status, that impact a person’s health.

What action has been taken so far? The past seven years have witnessed an unprecedented global political commitment to NCD prevention and control, culminating in the inclusion of NCD targets in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, country targets have been issued to reduce global NCD-related mortality by 30% by 2030. While there has been significant progress and the reduction targets are on track to be achieved in more than 15% of countries, there is still much work ahead of us.

Upjohn recognizes the critical importance of healthcare partnerships to drive lasting progress in society. We believe that working together can achieve the greatest impact in public health. To effectively catalyze action around challenges of the scale and complexity of NCDs, we need greater collaboration across sectors of healthcare. Observation data are abundant but often siloed in Emerging Markets, such as Africa and the Middle East (AfME) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Therefore, it is important to find ways to harness real world data more effectively to generate actional real world evidence (RWE) and insights.

Partnership in AfME

The New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Upjohn have announced a pioneering new collaboration to bring the private sector and academia together to launch a Center of Excellence to harness RWD. The center will be based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will contribute scientific insights that can impact patients locally, and across the region and world. This collaboration resonates strongly our commitment for long term investment with the government and for public-awareness of NCDs.

Anurita Majumdar, MD, Kelly H. Zou, PhD, PStat®, FASAThe NYUAD-Upjohn partnership includes two further initiatives. The first is the development of a capability-enhancement module to train local talent for evidence-generation, hence investing and training the next level of new local researchers. The second is the collaboration as one of the critical partners in the UAE Health Future study, one of the largest observational NCD-studies of its kind in the Middle East. According to the study website, the “UAE Health Future study is the first prospective study to provide scientific evidence of the causes of chronic diseases in the United Arab Emirates. The study also plays an important role in the development of prevention methods for the benefit of the UAE and Arab societies.”

Through this cutting-edge scientific partnership, our vision is to harness RWD to generate RWE and identify actionable insights to advance the management of NCDs. Such insights can direct future programs and ultimately relieve the burden of NCDs. RWE offers tremendous possibilities to translate data into meaningful health outcomes, particularly through observational studies, patient-reported outcomes, clinical trial optimization, synthetic control arm construction and pragmatic trials. As analytic capabilities and digital innovation mature, we see new opportunities to harness computational power, artificial intelligence, and high volumes of data in an efficient way.

Partnership in ASEAN

One of the most vexing challenges in the management NCDs is that patients, care-givers and societies all have some control over health outcomes. Upjohn’s groundbreaking collaboration was established with the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore to establish an RWE studies training curriculum for ASEAN policymakers and study conductors to standardize research methodologies across the ASEAN region. This partnership will train policy makers and research conductors in the ASEAN region on using systems thinking method in design and conduct of RWE studies to enable them to make evidence-based decisions in policy-shaping. Over the next two years, this training will support about 70 policymakers in the region to make more informed choices that can lead to better outcomes for people at high risk for NCDs. The collaborators via this partnership are at the forefront to lead the efforts for their leadership in public health and their commitment to public-private collaboration, through which we can unlock new data and insights that can advance the body of scientific knowledge on NCDs. Dr. David Matchar, who leads the collaboration from Duke, emphasized the importance of such a partnership because “it has always been the School’s mission to provide innovative education and impactful research, and this collaboration will help both policymakers and conductors of RWE studies be more knowledgeable and better-equipped to commission and conduct these much-needed programs.”


By working together, we can accelerate the convergence of previously disparate data and previously discrete tools to generate new scientific insights, identify risk factors, and define interventions that can make a difference in relieving the burden of NCDs. If communities and organizations lead with their respective strengths while standing united in this fight, it is possible to transform the trajectory of NCDs.


The authors are employees of Pfizer Upjohn. The authors would like to acknowledge the following collaborators and colleagues: Drs. Raghib Ali, Omar El Shahawy, Scott Sherman and Michael Weitzman of New York University Abu Dhabi or New York University School of Medicine; David Matchar, Alex Cho and Ebony Boulware, Duke University School of Medicine; Chandrashekhar Potkar and Amrit Ray, Pfizer Upjohn. In particular, we appreciate Dr. Ray’s LinkedIn Pulse posts on these two public-private partnerships in NCDs. Editorial support was not provided. The authors are employees of Pfizer Upjohn.

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