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Alumni Stories · Strategy - Sustainability

IMD EMBA alumna launches an innovative financing mechanism to end TB

Jackie Huh says the IMD Executive MBA program contributed to conceptualizing and strengthening the Stop TB Partnership’s most recent initiative
December 2016

 - IMD Business SchoolJackie is the Head of Strategic Initiatives & Innovative Financing at the Stop TB Partnership, which is hosted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). She completed the IMD EMBA program in 2015.

An initiative that Jackie conceived while participating in the IMD EMBA program was recently launched by the Stop TB Partnership and its partners – a social impact fund for tuberculosis (TB) called Venture Lab (vLAB), which will pool and blend private and public capital to fund innovative projects in the fight against TB.

TB is the new global health emergency and the world’s leading infectious disease killer, surpassing even HIV and Malaria. Every 18 seconds, 1 person dies and 2 billion people are infected as the disease is easily spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. As TB predominantly affects the poor and vulnerable, it does not nearly get as much attention or funding as many other infectious diseases. In order to end TB by 2030, substantial innovation will be required across the whole spectrum of TB prevention and treatment, including diagnosis, treatment, adherence, and vaccination.

vLAB and its first innovative project, Accelerator for Impact (a4i), aims to solve for this challenge by (1) supporting the innovators with promising, new TB tools achieve rapid introduction and widespread scale-up; (2) partnering for long-term success by identifying and implementing sustainable business partnerships and opportunities between the innovators and early adopter countries; and (3) bringing a return on investment for private and public donors contributing to vLAB.

“The introduction of promising, new tools is essential to end TB by 2030, and innovative financing and strategic partnerships are imperative to accelerate the pace at which these tools can be introduced and scaled-up,” said Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.

“The launch of VLAB and a4i will mobilize the best of private and public enterprise to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics and treatments that are essential to ending TB,” said Lelio Marmora, Executive Director of UNITAID, one of the UN partners involved in the project.

Jackie began the IMD EMBA program during the nascent inception of the Stop TB Partnership’s groundbreaking initiative and project. And there were many parts of the program which she says impacted her thinking and helped shape the development of vLAB and a4i. “The strategy stream was very helpful in that it forced me to pressure test the initiative’s and project’s concept and assumptions,” she said.

Sustainability, one of the building blocks of a4i, was also a stream that enlightened Jackie during the IMD EMBA program. “I only saw sustainability through the environmental lens, but I learned that I needed to consider and integrate the economic and social elements in the project. For example, innovators supported by a4i will need to identify and implement sustainable business partnerships in the early adopter countries that promote and include gender equality and inclusive employment,” she said.

Jackie’s personal history inspired and motivated her to enter the global health space. Prior to joining the UN, she worked in the private sector for close to16 years, but she found that she wanted to dedicate herself to something more challenging and meaningful. And, due to a chronic health condition Jackie is affected by, she has been and will be on medication throughout her lifetime. “I realized that I had access to proper healthcare and medicines due to circumstances that were based on pure luck and not on merit. I was born into a family that could immigrate to a country where such access was attainable and affordable. When you visit some of the high-TB burden countries and visit the local clinics, the sheer lack of equity that exists in the world takes your breath away,” she reflected.

Jackie entered the IMD EMBA program after one of her mentors and supervisors encouraged her to get a professional degree that would help push her career forward. But even though she was working in global health, her supervisor said: “We have enough medical doctors and people with Masters in Public Health. What we need are more people with business skill sets.”

The IMD EMBA was an opportune occasion, particularly for the inception of vLAB and a4i, as Jackie would be submerged in a group of great business minds and thinkers. She said: “I wanted to be around problem solvers and that is what I found in the program’s fellow participants. For me, it was truly about real world, real learning as I was looking for a path to bridge the way the public and private sector could work together to end TB by 2030.”

One of Jackie’s biggest takeaways from the IMD EMBA program was to accept and thrive knowing that every day is a learning process. She said: “While I would love to have built the perfect ecosystem before launching vLAB and a4i, the program gave me the necessary confidence and tools to thrive under and effectively address the uncertainties that come with bringing a new idea to life.”

Jackie says that she looks forward to tapping into IMD’s exclusive alumni network for guidance and inputs on how to ensure the long-term success and impact of vLAB and a4i.

Find out more about the IMD EMBA experience.