Celebrating World Health Day through our commitment to global health
To mark this day, we asked the Chair of our independent Ethics and Sustainability Board Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger to give us her take on what the theme means to her.
Marie-Claire is a pioneering international expert in sustainability, entrepreneurship, law and public policy. An award-winning expert jurist, executive and professor specialised in corporate social responsibility, climate law and governance, trade and investment, and research ethics, she also serves as Senior Director of the global Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), advising the United Nations and key countries, and leading purpose-led companies on ethics and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the UN’s World Health Organisation
The double celebration will focus on 'Health for All', an important message which resonates with me, and with everyone's efforts at bit.bio, where I serve as chair of the independent Ethics and Sustainability Board.
Being able to live a healthy life is one of the most fundamental human rights. Wherever someone lives, no matter their background, and as part of a sustainable lifestyle, they must have access to essential medical advice and care, and to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. To me, this is fundamental to ‘health for all’. Unfortunately, we are still far from making these rights to health a reality for all.
Thousands of people worldwide, especially children, still suffer from rare or 'orphan' diseases and genetic disorders for which no cure has yet been found. For example, Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder characterised by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. There are no known cures and the life expectancy for sufferers is to live until their twenties with cardiac and respiratory care. Yet it is considered uneconomic to even search for cures in a serious way, due to the current structure of health services.
Millions of people on our planet are also struggling with environmental degradation due to climate change, facing devastating impacts on health and well-being due to hurricanes and other extreme weather events, heat waves, flash floods and wildfires, as well as troubling changes in known disease vectors. The WHO estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
What can we do as a purpose-led company
So what can we do – as companies, as individuals - to ensure we play a role in making health for all a reality? As a Law Professor, the new Visiting Chair in Sustainable Development Law and Policy at the University of Cambridge, and Senior Director of the global Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), I help advise the UN, key countries and purpose led companies on how we can reform legal systems to deliver on the right to health, worldwide, and also on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. By providing legal advice for the negotiation and implementation of international treaties, and by training current and future law and policy makers to respond to these global challenges in an ethical and sustainable manner, I'm helping to make a difference in my lifetime.
This needs to be a concerted effort – we need strong policy, business and knowledge leadership on this issue at a national level. Health for all is a political and economic choice. It’s also a social choice, for which law and policy-makers need to hear serious public demand. Health for all must be kept high on the agenda, which is why everyone's voices and contributions to solutions are vital.
And it’s not just individuals and countries that can help - as a company, bit.bio has made a deep pledge to global health by signing up to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal including (SDG) 3 – good health and wellbeing. We have also signed up to other UN SDGs that will feed into health for all including SDG 15 - life on land, SDG 2 I zero hunger, and SDG 13 - climate action.
Anchoring our purpose-led company on these goals is possible because bit.bio's focus is on democratising access to human cells with our cell identity coding platform. Our teams are working to develop novel cell-based therapies at affordable, accessible costs. They are also working to further research into devastating conditions, using human cells as a more accurate model. These cell therapies and cellular engineering efforts are contributing to health for all. And the ambition doesn’t end there. The same technologies are being activated by sister company Meatable where they are producing cultured meat.
This is why bit.bio is also able to contribute to other UN SDGs such as SDG 15 life on land, SDG 2 zero hunger, and SDG 13 climate action. Because health isn’t just about access to healthcare. It’s about access to the basic human rights that enable us to live healthy lives - like food, water and sanitation, and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
It gives me hope, looking back on what’s been achieved during these 75 years of the WHO. And it grants me inspiration to look forward because there is another UN Sustainable Development Goal that bit.bio has signed up to help advance - SDG 9 innovation.
It is innovations in technologies that will ensure we have health for all in the future. Things like bit.bio’s cell identity coding platform, the advances in genetics, AI and what we have learnt from the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.