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The problems that afflict the global poor are numerous. When selecting targets, we look for issues for which our unusual approach, combined with the experience of our personnel, may give us a comparative advantage. This orientation has prompted us to concentrate (for the time being) on three zones:

  1. Access to Medicines. The obstacles faced by the world’s poorest populations in gaining access to lifesaving vaccines, drugs, and other medical technologies are complicated and multifaceted. Intellectual property, trade, and competition laws are valuable tools for creating incentives and distribution channels, but in some cases they can also create barriers to access. One particularly thorny problem relates to circumstances under which affluent and deeply impoverished populations co-exist within a single country. Under these circumstances, drug companies may worry that public-health efforts aimed at providing low-cost drugs to poor populations may corrode profitable sales of drugs to affluent patients in the same country. We are currently in the process of exploring the relative merits of various possible ways in which such hurdles might be overcome.

  2. Alternative Incentive Mechanisms. Traditional incentives for investment in research, development, and delivery have failed to stimulate innovation that addresses the pressing health needs of the global poor. Millions in least developed and developing economies die because of suboptimal investment in technologies like treatments for neglected tropical diseases, palatable pediatric HIV/AIDS antiretroviral formulations, or vaccines that do not require a cold chain. Global Access in Action is evaluating which alternative incentive mechanisms – such as prizes, challenges, advanced market commitments, public-private partnerships, and others – hold the greatest promise for promoting socially beneficial innovation in healthcare and medicine. We plan to look beyond theory, and to solicit the input of experts from industry, civil society, international procurement and donor agencies, government, and academia to explore potential avenues for incentivizing the development of medical technology for underserved populations. We will identify best practices and develop and promote clear, concrete, and effective policy recommendations that will aim to reduce the disparity in global health outcomes by improving incentives to develop much-needed products for the global poor.

  3. Trade Policy. The trade policies of the United States and other developed countries can have a profound impact on sustainable international development and global public health. By identifying and promoting opportunities for the reconciliation of commercial interests and the public interest, we can assist and encourage developed countries to adopt trade policies that promote global access to many technologies, including vaccines and medicines.

Projects & Tools 01

Global Access in Action

Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines,… More