Can product-development partnerships deliver?

November 18, 2009

pillsPublic-private partnerships in drug development were intended to marry the business savvy and deep pockets of big pharma with academic rigour. But this morning representatives from the biggest partnerships – including the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Global TB Vaccine Foundation – gathered to convince us their presence hasn’t been for nought.

In 2004, PDPs were responsible for 75 per cent of R&D in neglected diseases. It’s hard to quantify, however, how much of the R&D boost over the past decade or so has been due to PDPs and how much to a rising profile of global health issues.

What struck me most was the desire of several of the PDPs to “move beyond product development”.  At the conference so far, there has been much talk of moving away from short-term goals of rolling out antiretrovirals to a more holistic long-term approach to ensuring health systems are equipped for big health programmes to parachute in.

But surely if any organisation could be forgiven for focusing solely on a product, it would be a product-development alliance? It’s commendable that, as IAVI’s Holly Wong said, some PDPs share clinical site capacities and help build capacity. But their primary goal must be to develop urgently drugs for TB and neglected diseases.

Most PDPs are relatively young . It’s still a little too early to question whether they have fulfilled their promise but in a few years they will need to be accountable. In the meantime, they must concentrate on getting products to market.

Priya Shetty,,

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