PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-11 (11)
 

Clipboard (0)
None
Journals
Authors
more »
Year of Publication
Document Types
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.  The road to commercialization in Africa: lessons from developing the sickle-cell drug Niprisan 
Background
Developing novel drugs from traditional medicinal knowledge can serve as a means to improve public health. Yet countries in sub-Saharan Africa face barriers in translating traditional medicinal knowledge into commercially viable health products. Barriers in moving along the road towards making a new drug available include insufficient manufacturing capacity; knowledge sharing between scientists and medical healers; regulatory hurdles; quality control issues; pricing and distribution; and lack of financing. The case study method was used to illustrate efforts to overcome these barriers during the development in Nigeria of Niprisan – a novel drug for the treatment of sickle cell anemia, a chronic blood disorder with few effective therapies.
Discussion
Building on the knowledge of a traditional medicine practitioner, Nigeria’s National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) developed the traditional herbal medicine Niprisan. The commercialization of Niprisan reached a number of commercial milestones, including regulatory approval in Nigeria; securing US-based commercial partner XeChem; demonstrating clinical efficacy and safety; being awarded orphan drug status by the US Food and Drug Administration; and striking important relationships with domestic and international groups. Despite these successes, however, XeChem did not achieve mainstream success for Niprisan in Nigeria or in the United States. A number of reasons, including inconsistent funding and manufacturing and management challenges, have been put forth to explain Niprisan’s commercial demise. As of this writing, NIPRD is considering options for another commercial partner to take the drug forward.
Summary
Evidence from the Niprisan experience suggests that establishing benefit-sharing agreements, fostering partnerships with established research institutions, improving standardization and quality control, ensuring financial and managerial due diligence, and recruiting entrepreneurial leaders capable of holding dual scientific and business responsibilities should be incorporated into future drug development initiatives based on traditional medicines. Country-level supporting policies and conditions are also important. With more experience and support, and an improved environment for innovation, developing new drugs from traditional medicines may be an attractive approach to addressing diseases in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S11
PMCID: PMC3001608  PMID: 21144071
3.  Venture funding for science-based African health innovation 
Background
While venture funding has been applied to biotechnology and health in high-income countries, it is still nascent in these fields in developing countries, and particularly in Africa. Yet the need for implementing innovative solutions to health challenges is greatest in Africa, with its enormous burden of communicable disease. Issues such as risk, investment opportunities, return on investment requirements, and quantifying health impact are critical in assessing venture capital’s potential for supporting health innovation. This paper uses lessons learned from five venture capital firms from Kenya, South Africa, China, India, and the US to suggest design principles for African health venture funds.
Discussion
The case study method was used to explore relevant funds, and lessons for the African context. The health venture funds in this study included publicly-owned organizations, corporations, social enterprises, and subsidiaries of foreign venture firms. The size and type of investments varied widely. The primary investor in four funds was the International Finance Corporation. Three of the funds aimed primarily for financial returns, one aimed primarily for social and health returns, and one had mixed aims. Lessons learned include the importance of measuring and supporting both social and financial returns; the need to engage both upstream capital such as government risk-funding and downstream capital from the private sector; and the existence of many challenges including difficulty of raising capital, low human resource capacity, regulatory barriers, and risky business environments. Based on these lessons, design principles for appropriate venture funding are suggested.
Summary
Based on the cases studied and relevant experiences elsewhere, there is a case for venture funding as one support mechanism for science-based African health innovation, with opportunities for risk-tolerant investors to make financial as well as social returns. Such funds should be structured to overcome the challenges identified, be sustainable in the long run, attract for-profit private sector funds, and have measurable and significant health impact. If this is done, the proposed venture approach may have complementary benefits to existing initiatives and encourage local scientific and economic development while tapping new sources of funding.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S12
PMCID: PMC3001609  PMID: 21144072
4.  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
5.  Science-based health innovation in Rwanda: unlocking the potential of a late bloomer 
Background
This paper describes and analyses Rwanda’s science-based health product ‘innovation system’, highlighting examples of indigenous innovation and good practice. We use an innovation systems framework, which takes into account the wide variety of stakeholders and knowledge flows contributing to the innovation process. The study takes into account the destruction of the country’s scientific infrastructure and human capital that occurred during the 1994 genocide, and describes government policy, research institutes and universities, the private sector, and NGOs that are involved in health product innovation in Rwanda.
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 38 people from across the science-based health innovation system. Data was collected over two visits to Rwanda between November – December 2007 and in May 2008. A workshop was held in Kigali on May 23rd and May 24th 2009 to validate the findings. A business plan was then developed to operationalize the findings.
Results and discussion
The results of the study show that Rwanda has strong government will to support health innovation both through its political leadership and through government policy documents. However, it has a very weak scientific base as most of its scientific infrastructure as well as human capital were destroyed during the 1994 genocide. The regulatory agency is weak and its nascent private sector is ill-equipped to drive health innovation. In addition, there are no linkages between the various actors in the country’s health innovation system i.e between research institutions, universities, the private sector, and government bureaucrats.
Conclusions
Despite the fact that the 1994 genocide destroyed most of the scientific infrastructure and human capital, the country has made remarkable progress towards developing its health innovation system, mainly due to political goodwill. The areas of greatest potential for Rwanda are in traditional plant technologies. However, there is need for investments in domestic skill development as well as infrastructure that will enhance innovation. Of foremost importance is the establishment of a platform to link the various actors in the health innovation system.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC3001611  PMID: 21144074
6.  Science-based health innovation in Tanzania: bednets and a base for invention 
Background
Tanzania is East Africa’s largest country. Although it is socially diverse, it has experienced general political stability since independence in 1964. Despite gradual economic development and Tanzania’s status as one of the biggest recipients of aid in Africa, health status remains poor. This paper explores Tanzania’s science-based health innovation system, and highlights areas which can be strengthened.
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 52 people from across the science-based health innovation system over two visits to Tanzania from July to October 2007.
Results and discussion
Tanzania has a rich but complex S&T governance landscape, with the public sector driving the innovation agenda through a series of different bodies which are not well-coordinated. It has some of the leading health research on the continent at the University of Dar es Salaam, Muhimbili University of Health and Applied Sciences, the National Institute for Medical Research and the Ifakara Medical Institute, with strong donor support. Tanzania has found developing an entrepreneurial culture difficult; nevertheless projects such as the clusters initiative at the University of Dar es Salaam are encouraging low-tech innovation and overcoming knowledge-sharing barriers. In the private sector, one generics company has developed a South-South collaboration to enable technology transfer and hence the local production of anti-retrovirals. Local textile company A to Z Textiles is now manufacturing 30 million insecticide impregnated bednets a year.
Conclusions
To have a coherent vision for innovation, Tanzania may wish to address some key issues: coordination across stakeholders involved with health research, increasing graduates in health-related disciplines, and building capabilities in biological testing, preclinical testing, formulation and standardization, and related areas important to moving from basic research to applications. The private sector can be encouraged to innovate through improved access to financing, and incentives for R&D. The diaspora community represents an untapped source for partnerships and access to other developing world markets and technology. The government may wish to set up mechanisms to encourage south-south collaborations, and to bring the public and private sector together around specific projects to help realize the country’s innovation potential.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3001612  PMID: 21144075
7.  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
8.  Africa's largest long-lasting insecticide-treated net producer: lessons from A to Z Textiles 
Background
Field trials have demonstrated the efficacy of insecticide-treated nets, and the WHO has recently endorsed a shift toward Long-Lasting Insecticide Treated nets (LLINs) due to factors such as reduced distribution costs. However, the need for LLINs poses several challenges. Is it possible to manufacture LLINs in large quantities in the African continent, where malaria is most endemic? When production is located in low-income countries, what role is played by local funding and employment, scaling up manufacturing, and partnerships? What factors influence availability and pricing?
Discussion
A case study of A to Z Textiles was undertaken to answer the question of how large-scale production of LLINs can occur in a low income setting. One of the largest sources of bed nets for Africa, A to Z Textiles is Africa-based, and its Tanzanian operations have a production capacity of 30 million LLINs per year, along with full WHO recommendation for its nets. Our analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with key informants familiar with A to Z, site visits in Tanzania, and literature reviews.
This paper discusses the history and current status of A to Z Textiles, identifies the factors that led to its success, and suggests policy considerations that could support similar initiatives in the future. Local funding, scaling up manufacturing, technology transfer, and partnerships all played important roles in A to Z’s ascent, as did perceived benefits of local employment and capacity-building. Regulatory issues and procurement rules acted as barriers. A to Z cost-effectively manufactures high-quality LLINs where malaria is most endemic.
Summary
With a production capacity of 30 million LLINs per year, and full WHOPES (WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme) certification, A to Z Textiles demonstrates how key health goods can be successfully produced in the low-income countries that use them. Its example may be instructive and of high interest to readers in the malaria community, especially in developing countries, and to those who wish to support or partner with efforts by developing countries to build their health innovation capacity.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-S1-S6
PMCID: PMC3001614  PMID: 21144077
9.  Addressing conflicts of interest in Public Private Partnerships 
Background
Many articles have been written on conflicts of interests (COIs) in fields such as medicine, business, politics, public service and education. With the growing abundance of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), often involving complex relationships among the partners, it is important to understand how COIs can be mitigated and managed in PPPs.
Discussion
We wanted to study PPPs, particularly in the areas of global health and agriculture, but discovered no single source of information available to identify and compare various approaches for avoiding and managing COIs in PPPs. This is a significant gap, especially for those wishing to study, compare and strengthen existing COI policies related to PPPs. In order to bridge this gap, we reviewed how PPPs currently address COIs and highlight what might be considered good practice in developing COI policies. We reviewed the online COI policies of 10 PPPs in global health and agriculture, and interviewed two global health PPP chief executives.
Summary
Based on our review of policies and interviews, we conclude that there exists a range of good practices including attention to accountability and governance, acknowledgement and disclosure, abstention and withdrawal, reporting and transparency, and independent monitoring. There appears to be a need for PPPs to interact closely and learn from each other on these parameters and to also place more emphasis on independent external monitoring of COIs as a means of strengthening their major social objectives on which their activities are largely predicated. We also recommend the establishment of a web based database, which would serve as a forum to discuss COI issues and how they can be resolved.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-19
PMCID: PMC2914055  PMID: 20615242
10.  Human-animal chimeras for vaccine development: an endangered species or opportunity for the developing world? 
Background
In recent years, the field of vaccines for diseases such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which take a heavy toll in developing countries has faced major failures. This has led to a call for more basic science research, and development as well as evaluation of new vaccine candidates. Human-animal chimeras, developed with a 'humanized' immune system could be useful to study infectious diseases, including many neglected diseases. These would also serve as an important tool for the efficient testing of new vaccine candidates to streamline promising candidates for further trials in humans. However, developing human-animal chimeras has proved to be controversial.
Discussion
Development of human-animal chimeras for vaccine development has been slowed down because of opposition by some philosophers, ethicists and policy makers in the west-they question the moral status of such animals, and also express discomfort about transgression of species barriers. Such opposition often uses a contemporary western world view as a reference point. Human-animal chimeras are often being created for diseases which cause significantly higher morbidity and mortality in the developing world as compared to the developed world. We argue in our commentary that given this high disease burden, we should look at socio-cultural perspectives on human-animal chimera like beings in the developing world. On examination, it's clear that such beings have been part of mythology and cultural descriptions in many countries in the developing world.
Summary
To ensure that important research on diseases afflicting millions like malaria, HIV, Hepatitis-C and dengue continues to progress, we recommend supporting human-animal chimera research for vaccine development in developing countries (especially China and India which have growing technical expertise in the area). The negative perceptions in some parts of the west about human-animal chimeras can be used as an opportunity for nurturing important vaccine development research in the developing world.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-10-8
PMCID: PMC2890684  PMID: 20482820
11.  The three main monotheistic religions and gm food technology: an overview of perspectives 
Background
Public acceptance of genetically modified crops is partly rooted in religious views. However, the views of different religions and their potential influence on consumers' decisions have not been systematically examined and summarized in a brief overview. We review the positions of the Judaism, Islam and Christianity – the three major monotheistic religions to which more than 55% of humanity adheres to – on the controversies aroused by GM technology.
Discussion
The article establishes that there is no overarching consensus within the three religions. Overall, however, it appears that mainstream theology in all three religions increasingly tends towards acceptance of GM technology per se, on performing GM research, and on consumption of GM foods. These more liberal approaches, however, are predicated on there being rigorous scientific, ethical and regulatory scrutiny of research and development of such products, and that these products are properly labeled.
Summary
We conclude that there are several other interests competing with the influence exerted on consumers by religion. These include the media, environmental activists, scientists and the food industry, all of which function as sources of information and shapers of perception for consumers.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-9-18
PMCID: PMC2741429  PMID: 19698118

Results 1-11 (11)