Poster Paper: Public Private Partnerships and Nanomedicine Research

Thursday, November 7, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Thomas S Woodson, Georgia Institute of Technology
Many of the most deadly diseases have been eradicated through a variety of technologies and social developments like better infrastructure, new vaccines and improved medicine. However the improvements in healthcare and medicine have not been evenly distributed. A lot of the medical discoveries only target diseases of the very rich while other medicines are too expensive for the poor to buy. 

A large proportion of neglected diseases called diseases of poverty (DoP). There are about 40 DoP and in general that is not much research conducted on these diseases.  The literature on DoP attributes much of the inequality in medicine to a lack of a viable market for DoP.  Without a market, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will not development new medicines to target DoP because they cannot recoup their research and development (R&D) expenses. As a result scholars believe that special organizational structures and incentives, like public-private partnerships (PPP) and push/pull mechanisms, are necessary to overcome the lack of market for DoP.

Alongside public private partnerships (PPP), scientists have long believed that emerging technologies could revolutionize healthcare and improve the lives of the world’s poor.  However a key part of a successful emerging technology is that they also have market potential.  Yet there is not a natural market for medicines addressing diseases of poverty unless public-private partnerships and incentives are used to create a market. Therefore there is an interesting intersection between public-private partnerships, emerging technologies and diseases of poverty. The literature leads to the conclusion that without PPP's and market incentive structures, scientists will not study emerging technologies to solve problems related to poverty and inequality. I will test if this relationship is true. Are emerging technologies being use to address DoP and if so, are public private partnerships actively involved in the R&D?

For this presentation I will discuss how emerging technologies, specifically nanotechnology for medical applications (nanomedicine), are addressing DoP and how this research is supported by public-private partnerships.  In order to answer this question I will analyze nanomedicine research publications and patents to determine if scientists are researching nanomedicine for DoP. Moreover I will see how other factors like drug sales and disease burden drive nanomedicine research for DoP.  Preliminary results show that PPP’s are not actively involved in nanomedicine research.  This contradicts studies that suggest that 75% of DoP research is from PPPs. Moreover, the data doesn’t show a clear relationship between drug sales and disease burden with nanomedicine research.  Again these results contradict much of the literature that says market forces drive R&D.

Given that PPP’s have become a more prominent policy tool over the past 30 years, it is important to better understand how they operate and how they impact social issues. This study will better inform policy scholars about the role of PPP in R&D and how technology is being used to address poverty and inequality.