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Can world prize competitions foster more equitable drug research and development?
Date:2/1/2008

t demonstrate little incremental health benefits over existing, and cheaper, alternative products.

As the success of the Ansari X-Prize to stimulate commercial space travel has shown, a well designed prize can also leverage significant additional private funding for public research. The Prize succeeded in generating $100 million in investment by groups competing for the $10 million prize.

Dr. Fisher pointed out a number of potential problem as well, including drawing an unwieldy number of teams into a competition, insufficient incentives to ensure the commercialization of innovations, and political unpalatability in countries where vested commercial interests are at stake.

While prizes have been used across a range of scientific fields in the past, it is noteworthy that the only major attempts in medical-related areas so far have been in the former Soviet Union and China. There is, however, a major effort in the US to add a $ 80 billion Medical Innovation Prize fund to the portfolio of government incentives for R&D.

Designing Prizes

The workshop explored a number of important prize design questions that need to be taken into account, including targeting, prize magnitude, and when to award a prize -- at the point of discovery, or following successful commercialization, for instance.

Other issues included how to deal with further innovation following the first breakthrough, and the relationship between prizes and the patent system.

A crucial question in the design of a prize is credibility: How to assure researchers that the winner will receive the promised prize and that the selection process will be transparent" Of concern as well is the question of the winner's participation in commercialization of an innovation.

Some participants noted that the board of an organization that awards a prize may become a target of lobbying and perhaps even lawsuits (though others argued that the same
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Contact: Wangu Mwangi
mwangi@merit.unu.edu
31-433-506-365
United Nations University
Source:Eurekalert

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