Biotechnology companies can play an important role in advancing technologies for global health. Initiatives such as Genzyme's Humanitarian Assistance for Neglected Diseases and Alnylam's Intellectual Property (IP) contributions to the Pool for Open Innovation against Neglected Tropical Diseases show a commitment to helping produce badly needed health technologies, but unmet needs for new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for diseases affecting developing countries remain. Controlling malaria, visceral leishmaniasis and other infectious diseases that cause significant morbidity and mortality requires new and improved technological tools. Biotechnology companies’ expertise in biologics, point-of-care diagnostics and preclinical drug development is invaluable in this field, which is short of innovators.
Most firms, however, face disincentives in conducting R&D for global health since product markets are small and uncertain, the scientific problems are tough to solve, and few existing financing or policy mechanisms compensate for the risk. Product Development Partnerships and other non-profit initiatives have taken on much of the work in this area through grant financing and have often partnered with industry, but biotechnology firms could play a greater role. New policy and financing mechanisms that can balance the investment equation and encourage biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms to include global health diseases in their R&D portfolios could unleash important advances in global health technologies.Full details at the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology