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

Lifetime honour for former Provost

Professor Barry Everitt, former Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, has been elected a lifetime Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. AAAS has elected more than 500 scientists, engineers and innovators from around the world and […]

‘Tackle climate change misinformation through computational social science’

Future leaders and researchers need to be urgently trained to tackle climate change misinformation through an interdisciplinary approach that foregrounds computational social science and extends beyond laboratories and university campuses to shape the science-policy interface and rebuild public trust in climate research, according to leading academics. Writing in Nature Human Behaviour, the academics, including Dr Ramit […]

An existential psychological thriller for aesthetes

Christy Edwall’s first novel, History Keeps Me Awake at Night, out in early February, has been described as “an existential psychological thriller for aesthetes and lovers of cultural London and the world… A story cleverly told of a young woman involved in contemporary forms of global voyeurism”. It tells the story of Margit, a London […]

A detective of ancient climate change

Stijn De Schepper is an ancient detective. His job is to investigate past climate change through working his way down the ocean bed, starting with today’s sediment and moving back through thousands of years of Earth’s history.  He maps ancient marine sediments to find out if, why and how the environment changed in the past. […]