Biotech firms are popping up in developing nations to create affordable drugs and vaccines for the poor, but market forces could push them to make drugs for developed countries instead, reports New Scientist's Debora MacKenzie. Two researchers at the University of Toronto looked at 78 small biotechs in India, China, Brazil, and South Africa, and found that they have 69 affordable drugs and vaccines for TB and tropical diseases already on the market, plus another 54 in the pipeline. But because they're so expensive to test and develop, these biotechs are increasingly partnering with pharmaceutical companies to bring these vaccines to market — and pharmaceutical companies, MacKenzie says, have traditionally been uninterested in vaccines for tropical diseases because they don't bring in much money. "As a result, [the Canadian researchers] warn, they may shift to making the products to treat the diseases of the rich world that big pharma prefers," MacKenzie says, like the biotech in India working with a Danish firm on a diabetes drug, or the Chinese biotech working with an American company on developing an IBS treatment.
Ah, Market Forces
Sep 13, 2010