Popping Champagne corks to celebrate new project funding was a tradition in PATH’s early days. In this photo from the early 1980s, Gordon Perkin (right), PATH cofounder and former president, and Michael Free, one of PATH’s earliest employees who became vice president and senior advisor for technologies, do the honors. Photo: PATH.
PATH celebrates 40 years of impact—with much more to come
In 1977, three researchers with more moxie than money launched a new kind of health organization: a nonprofit that would connect the expertise, resources, and innovations of private industry and the public sector with the needs of people in the world’s poorest places.
The tiny nonprofit they founded on a shoestring budget is now called PATH. This year, we are proud to be celebrating our 40th anniversary. (Read about the birth of PATH.)
“We didn’t fit in any particular mold,” recalls Gordon Perkin, one of PATH’s cofounders and president of PATH until 1999. “People were uncertain as to who we were and what we were about and what was driving us.”
An equal chance for a healthy life
What drove them was a shared belief that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people should have the same right as people in wealthier countries to benefit from innovative technologies and tools that improve health and save lives.
“We saw ourselves as honoring the people we worked for and as having the privilege of helping them access new technologies that would better their lives,” says cofounder Richard Mahoney.
“We realized we had to do our work to very high standards not only to withstand scrutiny, but to make sure that our service to the poor honored them and their desire for a better life for themselves and their children.”
Today, our vision remains true to our founders’ original dream: a world where innovation ensures that health is within reach for everyone.
Slideshow: 40 years of health impact
Reaching people in 70 countries
From the beginning, we were unlike any other global health organization—a unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit, scientific expertise, and deep experience in the countries we serve.
PATH now has 1,500 employees working in more than 70 countries. Our health solutions reach an average of 150 million people each year by addressing every major global health challenge, from malaria to diabetes to neglected tropical diseases.
Our focus, then and now, is to work in partnership with the countries we serve and bring together cross-sector, cross-disciplinary collaborators to get health solutions to more people more quickly.
Against the odds
In the early years, Mahoney says, “there were many who doubted that we would succeed and looked for us to stumble in our work.”
Public-private partnerships are considered essential in global health and development today, but the idea was revolutionary in the late 1970s.
Industry always did the entire project itself,” said Gordon Duncan, cofounder and PATH’s first executive director. “What we were bringing to them is that there's a market out there that you haven't been addressing before. That market is in the developing countries.’’
By bringing together companies with governments, advocates, and communities, PATH sought to broker a win-win solution: Get health solutions into the low-resource countries that needed them by helping companies create or adapt high-impact, low-cost technologies that would sell in these new markets.
Thousands of partners, millions of lives saved
Over the past four decades, that collaborative approach has brought together tens of thousands of partners to save lives and improve health for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Our innovations include:
- More than two dozen vaccines in development or already in use to protect against 15 different diseases. Our vaccines for meningitis A and Japanese encephalitis together have reached about 500 million people in Africa and Asia.
- Vaccine technologies like the vaccine vial monitor—with more than 6 billion units procured since 1996—that help ensure vaccines are delivered in the right condition to safely protect all who need them.
- An array of tools and approaches to end malaria, from diagnostics and drugs to one of the world’s largest pipelines of malaria vaccine projects. PATH-pioneered approaches have contributed to 6.2 million lives saved over the course of 15 years.
- More than 100 other health technologies developed and adapted by PATH that save the lives of mothers and newborns, empower women with family planning options, and improve nutrition and access to clean water and improved sanitation.
- Strategies that help countries and communities strengthen their health systems, advocate for lifesaving policies and priorities, use data to drive decision-making, and generate demand for high-quality health services and products. For example, PATH’s Sure Start project in India reached 24.5 million people with information and support to improve the health of mothers and newborns.
What’s next? Even faster progress
We are proud of the role we have played in creating a healthier, more equitable world.
The number of children who die before the age of 5 has dropped by more than half since 1990. The number of women who die from complications in pregnancy and childbirth has declined by nearly half. More than 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
“As I have watched PATH through the years, I have seen the allegiance to rigorous, evidence-based decision-making continue,” Mahoney says. “Successes in fighting meningitis in Africa, Japanese encephalitis in Asia, and diarrhea with rotavirus vaccine have all been based on ‘doing it right.’ PATH can and will serve as a vivid illustration that service based on rigor is essential.”
We are ready to lead the way toward even greater progress and a future in which no child dies from a preventable disease, all women have the power to protect their health and families, and all communities have the tools they need to thrive.