Background: Collaborations among researchers based in lower and middle income countries (LMICs) and high income countries (HICs) have made major discoveries related to diseases disproportionately affecting LMICs and have been vital to the development of research communities in LMICs. Such collaborations have generally been scientifically and structurally driven by HICs.
Objectives: In this report we outline a paradigm shift in collaboration, exemplified by the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), in which the formulation of priorities and administrative infrastructure reside in the LMIC.
Methods: This descriptive report outlines the critical features of the MEPI partnership.
Results: In the MEPI, LMIC program partners translate broad program goals and define metrics into priorities that are tailored to local conditions. Program funds flow to a LMIC-based leadership group that contracts with peers from HICs to provide technical and scientific advice and consultation in a 'reverse funds flow' model. Emphasis is also placed on strengthening administrative capacity within LMIC institutions. A rigorous monitoring and evaluation process modifies program priorities on the basis of evolving opportunities to maximize program impact.
Conclusions: Vesting LMIC partners with the responsibility for program leadership, and building administrative and fiscal capacity in LMIC institutions substantially enhances program relevance, impact and sustainability.
Keywords: Medical Education Partnership Initiative; North–South collaboration; South–South collaboration; capacity building.