Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Botswana and South Africa to benefit from Pharma grant

A McGill University parasitology researcher (Dr. Timothy Geary) has received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to help establish locally controlled pharmaceutical research programs in Botswana and South Africa.

"Over the last 15 or 20 years there has been tension between the industrialized north and the developing south over this issue," he continued. "There was a sense in the south that people from the north were simply looting this resource. We called it bioprospecting; they called it 'biopiracy,' which caused obvious problems in negotiating access and contracts." Moreover, said Geary, philanthropic attempts to establish a pharmaceutical research base in Africa often fail because they lack the crucial element of sustainability: Donations of expensive high-tech equipment typically do not take long-term maintenance into account, for example.

According to Geary, "Africans will do the research and own the intellectual property. This creates sustainability: if you can license the products of your screening, you have a revenue stream."... "The other goal, that's very important, is that Africans should be leading this program in the very short term, two to three years. I hope to make myself irrelevant." (Source Eurekalert)

The cause seesm both sensible and noble but wonders how far $100,000 will go. Hopefully the revenue streams start to materialise fairly quickly and the programs are able to benefit from other funding or government initiatives.

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