One step forward, one step sideways? Expanding research capacity for neglected diseases

BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2010 Jul 14;10:20. doi: 10.1186/1472-698X-10-20.


Background: There is general agreement, including from the pharmaceutical industry, that current market based methods of generating research into the development of pharmaceutical products that are relevant for developing countries do not work. This conclusion is relevant not just for the most neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis but even for global diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Discussion: Stimulating research will mean overcoming barriers such as patent thickets, poor coordination of research activities, exclusive licensing of new technologies by universities and the structural problems that inhibit conducting appropriate clinical trials in developing countries. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that the priorities for research reflect the needs of developing countries and not just donors. This article will explore each of these issues and then look at three emerging approaches to stimulating research -paying for innovation, priority review sales or vouchers and public-private partnerships, - and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

Summary: All of the stakeholders agree that there is a pressing need for a major expansion in the level of R&D. Whatever that new model turns out to be, it will have to deal with the 5 barriers outlined in this paper. Finally, none of the three proposals considered here for expanding research is free from major limitations.