Turning science into health solutions: KEMRI's challenges as Kenya's health product pathfinder
According to authors Ken Simiyu, Hassan Masum, Justin Chakma and Peter A. Singer, the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa is ill-prepared to commercialize ideas emerging from public research institutes. The institutes, therefore, often take up the tricky task themselves.
The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), for example, constructed a full-scale manufacturing facility to produce HIV and Hepatitis B diagnostic kits.
The researchers detail a slew of problems that eventually left KEMRI's factory idled.
A limited product line -- diagnostics -- proved dangerous as it relied on government purchasing. Shortly after construction of a production unit, an abrupt change occurred in Kenyan regulatory requirements and the government stopped purchasing KEMRI's products.
Others among the challenges KEMRI faced in trying to develop products: lack of infrastructure, inadequate financing, and little experience with respect to innovation.
However, the institute overcame them through diversification, partnerships and changes in culture.
KEMRI diversified its product line to include a disinfectant as well as modified rapid HIV and Hepatitis B test kits. It adopted an open innovation business model, which linked it with investors, research partnerships, licensing opportunities, and revenue from contract manufacturing. It has established a marketing division, developed an institutional IP policy, and trained its scientists on innovation man
|Contact: Terry Collins|
McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health