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Studies detail triumphs, troubles of African innovators creating products for local health needs


KEMRI has shown how research institutes in Africa "can turn science into health solutions for local health problems, thus reducing Africa's health burden," the authors say. "The findings could have implications for other research institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa seeking to develop health products."

Among the lessons learned:

  • Investments in research need to be accompanied by investments in innovation management;

  • Institutions may wish to initially focus on local markets to generate immediate health and financial benefits;

  • A volatile business environment in Africa implies a need for proper strategic planning; open business models can help institutions leverage outside strengths to develop products.

The road to commercialization in Africa:
Lessons from developing the sickle-cell drug Niprisan

One of the few low-toxicity drugs available anywhere to treat sickle-cell anemia -- a debilitating chronic blood disorder -- is derived from medicinal plants in Nigeria. Authors Kumar Perampaladas, Hassan Masum, Andrew Kapoor, Ronak Shah, Abdallah S. Daar and Peter A. Singer looked at barriers faced by Nigeria's National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) while bringing this important product to market. They also chronicle many significant achievements in this drug's development process, even though it ultimately failed.

Nigeria alone has more than 4 million sickle-cell anemia patients, and every year an estimated 150,000 children are born with the condition, which also afflicts many North Americans and Europeans of African descent.

NIPRD developed the herbal medicine Niprisan from a combination of certain seeds, stems, fruit and leaves. Formal agreements entitled the traditional practitioners whose knowledge was used in the development program to product sale royalties.

The drug developers won regul

Contact: Terry Collins
McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

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