Can social enterprise be used in global medicine?

  • December 12, 2012
Can social enterprise be used in global medicine?

A new report looks at whether social enterprise can be used to drive research into the development of new medicines for low and middle income countries.

Does the social enterprise model have the potential to drive the development of new medicines for low and middle income countries? A new report, authored by Gates Cambridge alumnus Andrew Robertson, suggests that this may be the case.

The report, released by the Center for Global Health R&D Policy Assessment and titled The Global Health Social Enterprise: An Emerging Approach to Global Health Research and Development, looks at the issue from a US perspective, discussing the social enterprise model’s advantages and drawbacks compared to other models for medical product development.

Several companies were identified in the US that have successfully used a for-profit model for developing new medicines for diseases of the poor, such as tuberculosis, cholera, and leishmaniasis. The report identifies advantages that the social enterprise model has over non-profit “product development partnerships” (PDPs) – the predominant vehicle for neglected disease drug development – including increased corporate flexibility and access to additional sources of capital.

The report also discusses the role of the growing impact investor movement, which focuses financing on for-profit companies with a deliberate social mission.

However, it also notes difficult challenges faced by social enterprise drug development, such as justifying to investors the pursuit of medicines for developing world in an industry that requires high levels of financing, long development timelines, expensive clinical testing and top scientific expertise. Finally, the role of new legal corporate models, such as the Flexible Purpose Corporation, a type of corporation which is permitted to pursue social or environmental objectives as well as financial returns for its shareholders, are considered as tools to strengthen social enterprises in global health.

Andrew [2001] says: “The social enterprise model is still being tested in the global health space, but a few companies are already making it work, and have taken drug candidates to late stages of clinical development. As philanthropic funding becomes tighter and the PDP space becomes more competitive, global health social enterprises may be a promising strategy in developing new medicines for low and middle income countries.”

The report was conducted over a six-month period with interviews of US-based social enterprises working in global health, and was done in cooperation with the non-profit Results for Development Institute and through funding by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read the full report. The Results for Development Institute will be hosting a webinar on the report on Friday 21st December from 10:30-11:30am EST.

Picture credit: renjith krishnan and www.freedigitalphotos.net

Latest News

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]

An innovative approach to plant protection

Shauna-Lee Chai is passionate about working on wicked problems, about using her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of others and about seeing the big picture, something she says her experience as a Gates Cambridge Scholar contributed to. Her expertise is in invasive plant species and for three years she was Board Director of the […]