The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: South Africa

Friday Science Review: May 21, 2010

A slightly different FSR this week with a spotlight on Global Health, right on the heels of the recent Grand Challenges Canada announcement.  An interesting report in Nature Biotechnology, led by Drs. Abdallah Daar and Peter Singer at the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health, mapped the collaborations between health biotech companies in developing countries.  The study is a first for tracking “South-South” partnerships and they offer some interesting insights:

South-South collaborations have become a widely chosen path for health biotech companies:

  • About a quarter (27%), participate in collaborations with another developing country and many (21%) are involved in multiple initiatives.
  • South-North collaborations with developed countries are still more common (53%).
  • The most active countries with the highest percentage of firms engaged in South-South collaborations are Cuba (~75%) and South Africa (~45%), followed by Egypt, Brazil, India, and China.
  • These leading developing countries in health biotech make up the majority of the linkages (see figure below)
  • Many of the collaborations are within their own regions such that they are establishing free trade zones to encourage trade with one another.

South-South Collaboration Network

Some of the motivations for companies in developing to collaborate include:

  • Minimizing risk and cost by sharing the burden with a partner.
  • Expanding their potential markets with an easier or facilitated access to a foreign market.
  • Gaining specific knowledge or skills, particularly since there are many specialized skills and technologies involved in biotech research that may not be available locally.

The nature of the collaborations, however, is mainly end-stage commercialization agreements rather than R&D.

  • Distribution agreements (72%) and marketing activities (34%) account for the majority of the collaborations with only 13% involving R&D and 9% involving clinical trials activities.
  • Innovation based knowledge sharing would likely have greater long-term benefits and future policies should encourage more of these types of collaborations.

To further promote such initiatives, Government organizations and other third parties can, and should, play a larger role to cultivate joint ventures since the majority of the South-South collaborations were initiated by the participating companies themselves.  It is important to realize that  South-South collaborations in the biotech sector are just as valuable as North-South collaborations to sustain a growing culture that addresses global health issues.

Also note that this study follows a pair of Nature Biotechnology publications last year by the same group at MRC – one explores “South-North” health biotech collaborations and the other focuses on Canadian biotech collaborations with developing countries.

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Ups and Downs for Biotech Crops in the EU

Quite an a-maize-ing week (sorry) for biotech crops in the EU:

  • The European Commission announced a proposal to end Austria’s ban on biotech maizes MON810 and T25, saying that Austria had not supplied scientific evidence that the specific nature of Austria’s ecology justified the ban.
  • A report from the French food safety agency, Afssa, saying MON810 is as safe as conventional maize leaked to the press just a few days before Envirmonent Minister Jean-Louis Borloo was due to appear before a committee of European biotech experts to justify France’s ban.   This prompted French Prime Minister Francois Fillon to say Thursday that “France is maintaining the suspension while it awaits a (European) Commission decision which it will respect.”
  • When the committee of experts met Monday, they did not have the “qualified majority” (a population-weighted test) to overturn the MON810 bans in France or Greece, the same result as in December when the voting was to lift similar bans in Austria and Hungary.  Now all four cases will be addressed by the EU’s council of ministers on March 2.
  • This apparently emboldened Germany’s Agriculture Minister, who said the German government may revoke the license it already issued for the GM crop.
  • Last, but not least, today the European Court of Justice issued a ruling that requires EU governments to make the location of GM crop field trials public.  Hopefully long jail terms will deter the “activists” who will no doubt be among those accessing the information.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

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