North-South Collaborations to Promote Health Innovation in Africa

By Liotta, Dennis C.; Nwaka, Solomon et al. | Emory Law Journal, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

North-South Collaborations to Promote Health Innovation in Africa


Liotta, Dennis C., Nwaka, Solomon, Sencer, Stephen D., Vertinsky, Liza, Emory Law Journal


INTRODUCTION

Developing the health products needed, in the form and at the price needed, to combat diseases that disproportionately impact African countries, requires the strengthening of African capacity to discover, develop, and commercialize health technologies.1 Strengthening African capacity in an effective and sustainable way requires African-led identification of promising technologies, leveraging of existing capacity at all stages of the research and product development pipeline, and building new capacity where gaps exist.2 A major gap in developing African health technologies occurs at the point of moving early-stage technologies into development and commercialization.3 Fostering regional networks that connect existing capacities within and across African countries in ways that support the development and commercialization of African health products is critical to the success of capacity-building efforts.4

This regional network-based capacity-building approach informs the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property ("Global Strategy"), a global health initiative adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2008.5 The Global Strategy marks a shift in international thinking about how to address diseases, especially neglected diseases, in developing countries. It reflects an international consensus on the need to build research and development (R&D) capacity in developing countries to enable them to address those diseases that disproportionately impact them.6 The Global Strategy's plan incorporates regional innovation networks as proposed mechanisms for building health capacity.7 At roughly the same time as negotiations over the Global Strategy, the Summit of the African Union adopted the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa as part of its effort to establish a coordinated regional approach to local production of health products.8 This plan promotes a vision of a competitive, integrated, and sustainable pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Africa capable of responding to the continent's needs for medical therapies.9 It, too, emphasizes the importance of network building and collaboration at the regional level.10 A subsequent initiative spearheaded by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in 2010, Strengthening Pharmaceutical Innovation in Africa, has provided an assessment both of existing pharmaceutical capacities and of the potential for engaging in local research and production of health technologies through regional innovation networks.11 A network-based approach to developing health capacity similarly resonates with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals,12 the objectives in the African Union's Agenda 2063 development plan,13 and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024.14

While regional networks for building health innovation capacity feature prominently in these international and regional strategies for addressing African health and development challenges, there is little guidance as to what these networks should look like, how to create and sustain them, and how north-south collaborations can best contribute to their success.15 As NEPAD notes in its Strengthening Pharmaceutical Innovation in Africa report, initiatives like the Global Strategy and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan "are aspirational statements that need to be translated into work plans and approaches to implementation."16 This Article responds to that implementation gap by drawing from the experiences of the African Network for Drug and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI), an organization that deploys a network-based model for developing African health technologies, to identify concrete new roles for north-south collaborations as part of these African health innovation networks.17 This Article describes the role that such collaborations can play in addressing gaps in capacity for management and transfer of technology and knowledge from one stage of product development to another, thus supporting commercialization strategies for locally developed health technologies. …

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