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  • IFPMA Member Companies see technology transfer as a practical, sustainable approach to making their products available in a particular country, providing the necessary enabling conditions are in place.
  • Enabling conditions include: a viable and accessible local market, political stability and good governance, clear local development priorities, effective regulation, availability of skilled workers, adequate capital markets, intellectual property rights and enforcement, and a good relationship between government and industry.
  • Technology transfer can bring reputational benefit, but is primarily a commercial operation, although some may be on a not-for-profit basis.
  • For countries where the necessary enabling factors may be lacking, suitable government policies can help to make them more attractive as technology transfer recipients.

Background

Research-based pharmaceutical companies make a unique contribution to improving global health through the innovative medicines they develop. In addition, they have a strong track record of sustaining programs to improve the health of patients in low and middle income countries, by strengthening local healthcare capacity, by educating patients and populations at risk, and by conducting research and development (R&D) in diseases of the developing world.

The importance of transferring technologies for medicines and vaccines is recognized in the World Health Organization’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights (GSPoA). This calls for promotion of “transfer of technology and production of health products in developing countries through identification of best practices, and investment and capacity building provided by developed and developing countries where appropriate”. To play its part in the implementation of the GSPoA, to contribute to these discussions and with a view to informing the debate, IFPMA has brought together in a dedicated publication, “Technology Transfer: a Collaborative Approach to Improve Global Health”, over 50 examples of successful pharmaceutical technology transfers.

The IFPMA paper identifies the risk of a “technology transfer gap”: while middle income economies are involved in a growing number of pharmaceutical technology transfer partnerships, low income countries may be less attractive as partners, as they may lack many of the enabling conditions for successful technology transfer. The paper therefore recommends that low income country governments should help to improve local companies’ attractiveness as technology transfer partners, encourage them to focus initially on more accessible technologies and to create larger, regional markets through mutual recognition of medicine approvals with neighboring countries. High income countries can assist this process by technical means, such as giving low income countries greater access to international standard-setting bodies as a way of strengthening in-country competencies, as well as other forms of development assistance.

Transfer of advanced technology is essential for economic development. It is one means by which low- and middle-income countries can accelerate the acquisition of knowledge, experience and equipment related to advanced, innovative industrial products and processes. It has been credited with the potential to help improve health; increase the reliability of supply and decrease reliance on imports; raise the competence of the local workforce; and reverse the “brain drain” from low and middle income countries, by increasing local “high-tech” employment opportunities. In the field of pharmaceuticals, transferring technology can help improve the health of recipient countries’ populations by increasing access to innovative medicines and vaccines.

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