Product Development Partnerships (PDPs): Lessons from PDPs established to develop new health technologies for neglected diseases

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There has been little historic research and development (R&D) investment in technologies to address developing country health needs. The reasons for this are numerous and include:

  • High capital costs to undertake the R&D and the long time between R&D
  • investment and “commercialisation” of the resulting technology
  • R&D investment not appropriable (in this case, insufficient commercial
  • returns)
  • High technical risk associated with the underlying R&D
  • Development and/or success/uptake of the technology depends on actors from different sectors

In the past decade, Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) have been established to overcome these barriers. PDPs knit together partners from academia, industry, the public sector and international agencies, building trust and leveraging each partner’s strengths towards a common goal. Each PDP is focused on a specific technological goal, for example the development of a malaria vaccine appropriate for use in developing countries. The field of actors involved, or with potential for involvement, in the R&D for such neglected diseases is relatively small, and can be fairly easily identified. Evidence has been emerging that these partnerships result in quicker, less costly development of the technologies with superior public health benefits relative to existing technologies. They also improve the overall enabling environment for other actors to do the same.

This paper discusses the nature of the investment barriers in the neglected disease field and how the PDP model overcomes them. Those interested in applying the PDP model to overcome barriers in another technology sector can consider to what degree the same investment barriers are relevant and whether this model may be one way of addressing them.

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