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WHO Urges Funding for Genomic Research in Developing Nations

NEW YORK, May 2 - Genomic research could cure many of the scourges of the developing world, says a report released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization.


But without substantial technological investment in the countries where these diseases are rampant, the report warns, new biomedical techniques may serve instead to widen the global health gap between rich and poor.


The report, "Genomics and World Health," calls for $3 billion be devoted to research into diseases common in poor countries. Specifically, genetics research could help develop new treatments, cures, or preventive treatments for diseases like tuberculosis, HIV, dengue, and malaria.


Researchers in developing countries, however, generally do not have access to the capital necessary to conduct high-tech genomic research. And global pharmaceutical companies lack market incentives to develop new treatments.


"Because many of the medical benefits of genomics research may, at least at first, be very expensive, there is a danger that these new developments will increase the disparity in health care within and between countries," the WHO authors warn.


Without greater public and private investment, the report concludes, "the potential of genomics to combat these diseases will not be realized and existing inequalities in health will be exacerbated."


Recommendations include a new central Global Health Research Fund, bankrolled with $1.5 billion, to encourage new R&D worldwide. The report also urges that an additional $1.5 billion be earmarked for research into HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.


Genomics research must also be integrated into clinical and epidemiological research and practice in order to balance experimental and conventional approaches to disease management.


The 241-page report is available at the WHO website.

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