Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

The New Global Health Argonauts (Entrepreneurs)

As I like to contend, non-public health people from various disciplines are starting to have dramatic impact on public health, unlike never before … and folks in public health are far behind the curve in many respects. One of which is keeping up with others who are jumping in and changing the face of global health. The following story in today’s Wall St. Journal is a great example of how industry/private sector immigrants in the US are going to eventually make big strides overseas in the health arena. This particular case has been already well documented in the IT services sector and even though not many are talking about it, I do not see why the same will not hold true for the health care sector, to a more limited extent. Professor Anno Lee Saxenian just released a book about succesful immigrants in the high tech/IT arena going back to their home countries to start up ventures. The book, “The New Argonauts”, is well worth checking out. In my opinion, a similar potential exists for the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors. Admittedly, the process will be much harder with pharmaceuticals, but stories like the one below in the WSJ are promising for developing regions. The team over at the Canadian Center for Genomics and Global Health have begun to study this pheonomena in the biosciences, check out their article for a discussion on the potential and limitations faced – Scientific Diasporas.

If you don’t believe the capacity of regions across the world is growing, click on the map below to see biotech clusters around the world. It is a bit strange that they do not highlight Cuba’s well known biotechnology capacity. To be fair, there are challenges, for another take on the limitations of R&D in places like India see this article on Innovators without Borders.


Many thanks to Katie for passing the WSJ article along!

WSJ 12/14/06 Patent Remedy: Indian Scientists Return Home

wsj_indiarx.gifPUNE, India — For more than 20 years, Rashmi Barbhaiya lived a comfortable life in New Jersey…Now, in a move that hints at a big shift in the global pharmaceutical business, Dr. Barbhaiya is back home in India. He’s still trying to discover new drugs, but he’s doing so with an all-Indian-born research team at a company he founded in this center of Indian high technology. Dr. Barbhaiya runs Advinus Therapeutics, a company whose new-drug research would be powered by Indian scientists returning from the U.S. and other countries.

As big drug companies shut down some research facilities in the U.S. and other rich countries, labs in India and China are increasingly picking up the slack…Eli Lilly & Co., Wyeth and GlaxoSmithKline PLC all have outsourced chemistry work to Indian firms…Now Indian companies are increasingly conducting clinical trials, performing contract chemistry work and, as Dr. Barbhaiya’s journey shows, carrying out original research aimed at discovering new drugs.

One of Dr. Barbhaiya’s passions is discovering drugs for diseases that are prominent in poorer countries but rarely get attention from Western drug makers…Dr. Barbhaiya steered Ranbaxy into a pact in 2003 to develop an antimalaria drug with the Geneva-based Medicines for Malaria Venture. The drug is now in midstage clinical trials.

Full story at WSJ.


Written by Aman

December 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] Posted by Aman on August 20th, 2007 Conducting clinical trials overseas is nothing new, however, increasing access to capital and investment in emerging countries does appear to be relatively recent. Two new pieces (links at end) detail the move into China by pharmaceutical companies. I have covered this notion in a previous post. […]

  2. Jose, I absolutely agree with you about tracking outcomes and benefits to the larger community to see what the effect is. Perhaps I am naive, but this kind of “ethic” of giving back to the community seems to be more ingrained in some corporations in developing regions. How much more is the question. Either way at some point I believe that some of these in-country corporations will have a spill over effect that will impact the underserved. I am hopeful that R&D for some of these pharma companies will eventually lead to innovation (happenstance or purposeful) which then may lead to community benefits. Even just having the R&D infrastructure in-country is a big deal because this never existed before. We will see what happens.


    December 15, 2006 at 7:08 pm

  3. This is really great because it shows that they are moving from outsourcing processes to indigenous innovation. For the purposes of people reading this type of blog, it would be wise to track their performance on how they service their domestic health needs. It’s great if they want to be the next Pfizer, but it would be nice if they focused on the needs closer to home.


    December 15, 2006 at 5:30 pm

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