6. Product Development Priorities


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Richard Lord, www.rlordphoto.com

Although recent scientific advances in molecular biology, genomics, and medicinal chemistry have paved the way for generating new therapeutic agents, vaccines, and diagnostic tools, challenges to research and development (R&D) for global diseases still remain. Innovation and discovery—the first steps in the product development process—have historically been concentrated in industrial countries, but many countries such as Brazil, India, and Singapore have begun to support fundamental research. While these new research settings can focus on the immediate needs of developing countries, their ability to secure sustained funding and proceed from discovery to development and manufacturing appears far less certain.

The high costs of developing and testing new medicines and diagnostics in industrial countries are related to a number of factors, including the costs associated with use of highly trained scientists and specialized equipment, expensive clinical trials, and the use of capital. However, R&D costs for drugs in lower–income countries (LICs) can actually be comparatively less if innovations are spearheaded through public–private partnerships (PPPs). For example, PPPs benefit from in–kind contributions of personnel and other resources supplied by their industry and academic partners, and the opportunity cost of capital may be lower if funders require an immediate return on their investment.

In addition, the timelines and costs of developing diagnostics in LICs are significantly lower than they are for developing new drugs and vaccines. This could be a promising avenue of R&D for these countries, especially if PPPs serve as the financing mechanism. Yet, unresolved issues such as equitable pricing, patent exclusivity, and product liability continue to complicate successful global R&D in developing countries.