Technology transfer to developing countries. An entrepreneurial opportunity?

Rich and poor share many similar problems, particularly in areas such as disease control, energy, agriculture, water and the environment. Yet many technological advances that help the rich struggle to reach the poor. An example of this is the availability of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

As Avert discusses, the first antiretroviral drug, HAART, became available in 1996 and reduced death rates for people with HIV/AIDS in developed countries by 84% within 4 year. However, at a price level of US$10,000-15,000 per person per year, it was far too expensive to reach many HIV infected people in the poorest countries. Only in 2000, when an Indian generic drug manufacturer, Cipla, introduced generic ARVs, did prices drive down to $295 per person per year. This was only possible because Indian companies did not have to abide by TRIPS legislation, intellectual property law affecting all members of the WTO.

HIV/AIDS treatments is just one example of how advances available to the rich struggle to reach the poor. Efforts such as the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at Northwestern attempt to narrow the gap. Through GHI, medical device companies partner donate intellectual property that Northwestern uses to develop products that could be viable for distribution in developing countries. Nevertheless, there is room for further innovate approaches in this space.