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

asting insecticide treated bed nets, cost-effectively producing tens of millions of nets in an area where malaria is a critical problem. The company succeeded despite regulatory issues, procurement rules, and other barriers.

  • In Madagascar, The Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA) has created Madeglucyl, a treatment for diabetes management based on a traditional remedy;

  • In Nigeria, the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development has a plant-based drug for sickle-cell anemia one of the few low-toxicity drugs available anywhere to treat the debilitating chronic blood disorder but has yet to overcome barriers to its commercialization;

    "Concern over access to essential medicines have dominated international health policy debates over the last two decades," Harvard professor Calestous Juma says in a preface to the work. The debates, centered on intellectual property rights, wrongly assume that Africa will remain "a marginal player in the world of health innovation and will continue to rely on imported solutions.

    "This collection of original papers provides a different prognosis. They reveal an emergent 'health innovation system' in Africa that is driven by a combination of local research, entrepreneurship and institutional adaptations."

    The research complements a related MRC paper, published Dec. 10 in Science, about so-called "stagnant technologies" in sub-Saharan Africa products with the potential to save many lives, but which exist only in a lab due to a failure of commercialization or support.

    Led by researcher Ken Simiyu, some 25 such products were identified languishing in health research institutions in Africa, some already validated but not yet converted to a product or service. Of the 25 stagnant technologies found, 16 involved traditional plant products; the rest were new drug molecules, diagnostics, vaccines and medical devices.

    They inc

  • Contact: Terry Collins
    McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health

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