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1.  Science-based health innovation in sub-Saharan Africa 
In recent years emerging markets such as India, China, and Brazil have developed appropriate business models and lower-cost technological innovations to address health challenges locally and internationally. But it is not well understood what capabilities African countries, with their high disease burden, have in science-based health innovation.
This gap in knowledge is addressed by this series in BMC International Health and Human Rights. The series presents the results of extensive on-the-ground research in the form of four country case studies of health and biotechnology innovation, six studies of institutions within Africa involved in health product development, and one study of health venture funds in Africa. To the best of our knowledge it is the first extensive collection of empirical work on African science-based health innovation.
The four country cases are Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The six case studies of institutions are A to Z Textiles (Tanzania), Acorn Technologies (South Africa), Bioventures venture capital fund (South Africa), the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA; Madagascar), the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI; Kenya), and Niprisan’s development by Nigeria’s National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development and Xechem (Nigeria).
All of the examples highlight pioneering attempts to build technological capacity, create economic opportunities, and retain talent on a continent significantly affected by brain drain. They point to the practical challenges for innovators on the ground, and suggest potentially helpful policies, funding streams, and other support systems.
For African nations, health innovation represents an opportunity to increase domestic capacity to solve health challenges; for international funders, it is an opportunity to move beyond foreign aid and dependency. The shared goal is creating self-sustaining innovation that has both health and development impacts. While this is a long-term strategy, this series shows the potential of African-led innovation, and indicates how it might balance realism against opportunity. There is ample scope to learn lessons more systematically from cases like those we discuss; to link entrepreneurs, scientists, funders, and policy-makers into a network to share opportunities and challenges; and ultimately to better support and stimulate African-led health innovation.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S1
PMCID: PMC3001606  PMID: 21144069
2.  Science-based health innovation in Ghana: health entrepreneurs point the way to a new development path 
Background
Science, technology and innovation have long played a role in Ghana’s vision for development, including in improving its health outcomes. However, so far little research has been conducted on Ghana’s capacity for health innovation to address local diseases. This research aims to fill that gap, mapping out the key actors involved, highlighting examples of indigenous innovation, setting out the challenges ahead and outlining recommendations for strengthening Ghana’s health innovation system.
Methods
Case study research methodology was used. Data were collected through reviews of academic literature and policy documents and through open-ended, face-to-face interviews with 48 people from across the science-based health innovation system. Data was collected over three visits to Ghana from February 2007 to August 2008, and stakeholders engaged subsequently.
Results
Ghana has strengths which could underpin science-based health innovation in the future, including health and biosciences research institutions with strong foreign linkages and donor support; a relatively strong regulatory system which is building capacity in other West African countries; the beginnings of new funding forms such as venture capital; and the return of professionals from the diaspora, bringing expertise and contacts. Some health products and services are already being developed in Ghana by individual entrepreneurs, which are innovative in the sense of being new to the country and, in some cases, the continent. They include essential medicines, raw pharmaceutical materials, new formulations for pediatric use and plant medicines at various stages of development.
Conclusions
While Ghana has many institutions concerned with health research and its commercialization, their ability to work together to address clear health goals is low. If Ghana is to capitalize on its assets, including political and macroeconomic stability which underpin investment in health enterprises, it needs to improve the health innovation environment through increasing support for its small firms; coordinating policies; and beginning a dialogue with donors on how health research can create locally-owned knowledge and be more demand-driven. Mobilizing stakeholders around health product development areas, such as traditional medicines and diagnostics, would help to create trust between groups and build a stronger health innovation system.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3001610  PMID: 21144073
3.  Science-based health innovation in Uganda: creative strategies for applying research to development 
Background
Uganda has a long history of health research, but still faces critical health problems. It has made a number of recent moves towards building science and technology capacity which could have an impact on local health, if innovation can be fostered and harnessed.
Methods
Qualitative case study research methodology was used. Data were collected through reviews of academic literature and policy documents and through open-ended, face-to-face interviews with 30 people from across the science-based health innovation system, including government officials, researchers in research institutes and universities, entrepreneurs, international donors, and non-governmental organization representatives.
Results
Uganda has a range of institutions influencing science-based health innovation, with varying degrees of success. However, the country still lacks a coherent mechanism for effectively coordinating STI policy among all the stakeholders. Classified as a least developed country, Uganda has opted for exemptions from the TRIPS intellectual property protection regime that include permitting parallel importation and providing for compulsory licenses for pharmaceuticals. Uganda is unique in Africa in taking part in the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI), an ambitious though early-stage $30m project, funded jointly by the World Bank and Government of Uganda, to build science capacity and encourage entrepreneurship through funding industry-research collaboration. Two universities – Makerere and Mbarara – stand out in terms of health research, though as yet technology development and commercialization is weak. Uganda has several incubators which are producing low-tech products, and is beginning to move into higher-tech ones like diagnostics. Its pharmaceutical industry has started to create partnerships which encourage innovation.
Conclusions
Science-based health product innovation is in its early stages in Uganda, as are policies for guiding its development. Nevertheless, there is political will for the development of STI in Uganda, demonstrated through personal initiatives of the President and the government’s willingness to invest heavily for the long term in support of STI through the Millennium Science Initiative. Activities to support technology transfer and private-public collaboration have been put in motion; these need to be monitored, coordinated, and learned from. In the private sector, there are examples of incremental innovation to address neglected diseases driven by entrepreneurial individuals and South-South collaboration. Lessons can be learned from their experience that will help support Ugandan health innovation.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC3001613  PMID: 21144076

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