My connection to the GHIT Fund goes back to 2011, when I participated in a Global Health Leadership summer program held at the University of Tokyo. Dr. BT Slingsby, who worked at Eisai at that time, had been invited as a lecturer, and I was impressed with the dynamic nature of the organization's global partnerships and Dr. Slingsby's vision for product development dedicated to global health.
I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Slingsby several times after that first encounter, and I followed his plans to launch the GHIT Fund with great interest. One day he said to me, “I would like to create a worldwide institution for global health.” I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and quickly made the decision to join the GHIT team.
There were only a few staff members when I joined in 2013, and we were all starting completely from scratch. But I was excited to be able to work with colleagues who each brought unique professional experience to the table, as well as with the world-renowned Board of Directors. I remember feeling elated that I had been invited to do exactly the job I wanted in global health.
I oversee organizational branding and strategic communications for GHIT using a variety of media platforms. Before GHIT, I worked at advertising and marketing companies, so I was familiar with brand communication for products and services. However, I immediately hit a massive barrier: how to brand an almost-unknown organization that hadn’t yet established a track record of concrete achievements. The concept of “global health” was barely established in Japan at the time, much less research and development (R&D) in global health, or GHIT’s unique business model. Everything was completely new, so I really had to think about how to communicate these concepts.
The GHIT Fund is not a business to consumer (B2C) organization, but rather a business to business (B2B) organization; in other words, the Fund invests in the development of products but does not carry out product development on its own. I worried endlessly about how organizations that don't own products themselves create new social value and how to convey that value to someone. But first, I focused on the immediate goal of earning the trust of our funders.
Today, my focus is on raising the value of the now-established GHIT brand. The brand is essential to fundraising, to promoting product development that maximizes Japanese innovation, and to attracting top talent to GHIT. And brand is much more than, for example, design — I believe that the organization’s vision and mission, its business model and governance mechanisms, what the organization (and even individual staff) says and does, and what people experience at events held by the Fund all become a part of GHIT’s brand.
Since GHIT is, ultimately, an organization that invests in product development, the leading role belongs to the researchers and medical professionals who conduct product development, as well as the people who participate in the clinical trials. We as the investor should not take center stage, but rather remain behind the scenes, supporting researchers and development partners. The GHIT Fund's ability to function as a mechanism to spark open innovation and to act as a hub, connecting research and networks, is needed both in Japan and overseas.
Effective branding and brand promotion creates a virtuous cycle — supporting the people who work behind the scenes, capturing results, and actively disseminating information in a way that builds trust with GHIT's funders and sponsors — ultimately winning additional support that the Fund can allocate to its partners.
Since GHIT is a small organization of about 15 people, demands for speed, quality, and workload on staff are high. GHIT is a nonprofit organization, but we are very similar to a company in how we work. Because our projects cross borders, project management is the foundation of everything, and marketing ideas are absolutely necessary for forming a strategy for and undertaking communication, urging action, and understanding the needs and thinking of our stakeholders. These are generally thought to be weak points for nonprofit organizations, but GHIT wants to wipe out that image. I would like us to be an organization that can continue to make a large impact with a small and select staff, and marketing is critical to that goal.
However, our ability to have an impact with these select few is only possible because we are supported by many people at home and abroad. We could not have made it this far without assistance from the people supporting GHIT day and night, not only with investment but also back-office operations and event management. Those partnerships must be treated with the utmost care.
GHIT's Branding Guidelines
In June 2017, we announced a commitment for the next five years. GHIT's funders gathered and were genuinely impressed by the strong message that we will continue to unify product development within global health and across sectors. When we were first established, some people wondered whether we could truly advance product development in the way we hoped. That might be a natural reaction, but five years later, expectations for GHIT are growing steadily — for fundraising, product development, advocacy, and many other areas. Trust from stakeholders continues to grow as well.
At the same time, I realize the magnitude and seriousness of our responsibility, and I am keenly aware that the Fund must not just maintain — but continuously increase — the quality and level of our work.
By repeatedly taking on new challenges, failing fast, and immediately improving our processes, the staff has gained significant confidence. I have been able to grow individually, too. GHIT is a relatively young organization, but we have mobility, creativity, and passion. The career histories of our team are diverse, and the range of things that the team can do is expanding. Because these teams are led by directors, a selection committee, and advisors who provide strategy and governance, I think we can be confident about the next five years.
GHIT's immediate objective is to reliably release the products in which it invests to the world and ensure they are delivered to people in developing countries who need them. My role is to communicate these outcomes to the people of Japan and abroad.
Satoshi Omura, distinguished professor at the Kitasato Institute, contributed greatly to the discovery of a new medicine for neglected tropical diseases and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2015. I anticipate that, over the next few years, we will see even more examples of important new medicines being developed through Japanese innovation. These examples will make it easier for even people who do not have an everyday connection to global health to understand Japan's role in, and the significance of, those activities.
(Above) GHIT Fund Replenishment Press Conference in June 2017
(Below) Clinical site visit in Tanzania: Clinical trial of pediatric praziquantel formulation for the treatment of schistosomiasis
A major part of GHIT’s appeal lies in its business model, but, for both fundraising and product development, partnerships between Japanese and organizations overseas are the foundation for impact. Rather than focusing only on Japan, I always advocate for a global perspective. When staff members hear high-level discussions taking place between among the diverse leaders on our Council and Board of Directors the global context for, and importance of, our work is further reinforced.
Additionally, because GHIT is a public–private partnership, different cultures and ways of thinking about operations and collaboration intersect. Creativity, diversity, and a new sense of values are born at those intersections. That's the true value of public–private partnerships.
Internship at the Mumbai Field Office, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
One of the reasons I wanted to work in this field comes from an experience I had during a graduate school internship at the United Nations Children's Fund in India, in the Mumbai field office. At the time, I was in charge of research related to care and support for pediatric HIV patients. One day, at a large hospital where about 200 patients with HIV came every day, a grandfather brought his two granddaughters to the hospital. Their father and mother had died of AIDS, and the grandfather was looking after the sisters. The younger, four-year-old sister was infected with HIV, but she did not know why she was at the hospital or why she had to continue taking medicine.
I heard many stories like this, and I was shocked by the magnitude of influence that infectious diseases have on people’s lives and society. Those people are socially vulnerable, and the support they receive is not sufficient. I have witnessed many occasions where society passed such people over completely. This is not limited to HIV; many of the tropical diseases that GHIT tackles have similar circumstances.
It is an honor to be part of an organization like GHIT, where it is possible to contribute, along with our partners, to improving the lives of vulnerable people around the world.
*This interview was conducted in August 2017.
Bumpei Tamamura is Senior Director of Brand Communications. Before his position at the GHIT Fund, he worked as a strategic planner at communication agency and social marketing venture and was responsible for marketing and communication strategy and execution. He had a wide range of clients from international organization, ministries, universities, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Tamamura graduated from Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, and received his master degree from Boston University School of Public Health.