Bridging the gap to ensure equitable treatment options for children and pregnant people 

08 Apr, 2024

The pursuit of global health is a noble endeavour, but one often compromised by glaring disparities. Advancements, while crucial, frequently prioritise adult populations, leaving children and pregnant people with limited treatment options. This neglect often results in relying on medication that is not formulated to their needs, forcing them to either resort to adult medications with potentially harmful side effects or remain vulnerable and exposed to infectious diseases without adequate means to treat them. 

Amidst this landscape of neglect, Penta stands out as a steadfast champion. Driven by a deep commitment to equity and inclusion, we and our partners work to bridge this gap to ensure everyone has access to the right treatments and, in the right dose and formulations. Our mission is not merely to prevent and treat infectious diseases, but to foster a future where research prioritises the needs of all, particularly children and pregnant people ensuring they have access to safe and effective treatments. 

Our ODYSSEY trial stands as a landmark achievement in the field of paediatric HIV treatment. The first of its kind, it demonstrated the efficacy and safety of dolutegravir-based treatment combinations for children living with HIV. This drug had already proven its worth in adults, but data on its safety and efficacy in children was lacking. The ODYSSEY trial filled this critical void in paediatric HIV care. Thanks to ODYSSEY and similar trials, children around the world can now access this life-saving medication, offering them a brighter future. 

Another example of how we are working to drive transformative change in paediatric and maternal health is through our European Pregnancy and Paediatric HIV Cohort Collaboration (EPPICC). 

EPPICC’s research focuses on the specific health needs of children and pregnant people. By collecting data of children and pregnant people taking medications in observational and post authorisation studies and following up those who received drugs in trials, they gain valuable insights into how diseases progress, how treatments work in real-world settings, and how medications impact both pregnant people and their developing babies and children. By taking into account their specific needs, EPPICC fosters a future where everyone receives medication that is safe and effective. 

The ever-evolving landscape of infectious diseases demands constant vigilance, particularly when it comes to the impact on undeserved and vulnerable populations. The VERDI Project exemplifies Penta’s commitment to tackling emerging threats. 

VERDI focuses on answering critical research questions surrounding the impact of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in pregnant people and children. This vital research extends to populations at increased risk of mpox (monkeypox), such as people living with HIV and those attending sexual health clinics. 

 Through a robust, multidisciplinary global network, VERDI aims to generate improved evidence to build a stronger foundation for protecting underserved and vulnerable populations from emerging infectious diseases. 

At Penta we prioritise inclusive research. We firmly believe that including the patient perspective throughout the research process is not just ethical, but essential for developing effective interventions. This goes beyond tokenistic representation; when young people living with HIV are involved in our studies, we make sure that they have the space to shape and design research that impacts their lives making them advocates for their own health and wellbeing. 

We recognise that public conversations with young people about health and science are crucial. Through our Young Reporters project, we actively work towards empowering young people to understand research and share their knowledge with their peers and communities. In partnership with our communications team, these young people become science communicators and use social media to bridge the gap between research from scientific congresses and their peers. 

The communities we serve inspire us every day and this World Health Day, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of a world where health is not a privilege, but a fundamental right enjoyed by all.