Emerging technology for the poor: how nanomedicine and public private partnerships are used to address diseases of poverty
Woodson, Thomas S.
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Decreasing the number of people that die from preventable illnesses and reducing poverty and inequality are major public goods that are being addressed from a variety of angles. One way that policy makers and scholars are trying to improve global health is by developing new health technologies that will decrease poverty and inequality. This dissertation investigates whether nanotechnologies for medical applications (nanomedicine) are used to address diseases of poverty (DoP) and the role that public partnerships (PPP) play in nanomedicine research. If scientists are developing nanotechnology based vaccines and medicines for DoP, then I can conclude that the technology is helping to decrease poverty and inequality. There are two parts to my analysis. The first part of my dissertation analyses the landscape of nanomedicine DoP research and then I test how USA medicine sales, disease burden and diseases of poverty correlate with number of nanomedicine publications and patents. I find that there is some nanomedicine research on diseases of poverty, especially for high profile DoP like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, but overall there is less R&D on DoPs than non-DoPs. However, I cannot determine if USA medicine sales and disease burden have any relationship to research output. In the second part of my dissertation I examine the role of formal public-private partnerships (PPPs) for developing DoP medicines. Many think the formal health PPPs can overcome the various market failures associated with developing medicines for DoP. I analyze PPP websites and interview PPP managers/scientists about their research portfolios, relationship with nanotechnology, and how PPPs are addressing inequality in health R&D. I find that managers/scientists at PPPs have a variety of opinions about nanotechnology, but the general consensus is that nanotechnology will not be used in the near-term for DoP medicines. PPP managers/scientists believe that the technology is too expensive for DoP medicines and it will take too long to approve nanomedicines. Instead of using nanotechnology most PPPs are in favor of using traditional technologies.