Leaving a mark - is Global Health finally becoming a viable business model for the Western life sciences

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Can German companies come up with a fair and viable business model for Global Health — and do they want to?

  • €14,447 Budget in Euros
  • 2020 Final release date
  • 6 Round winner
  • 6 Locations

Leaving a mark - is Global Health finally becoming a viable business model for the Western life sciences

Can German companies come up with a fair and viable business model for Global Health — and do they want to?

Germany’s recently initiated Global Health Hub has the task to contribute to the Agenda 2030 sustainability goals by improving healthcare on a global scale. This project focusses on an aspect that Germany is admired for worldwide: technology. But since developing innovative therapies and diagnostics custom-made for the needs of developing world patients is not exactly a no-brainer, can German companies come up with a business model that is both fair and viable?

There are not enough innovative therapeutics and diagnostics tailored for the needs of development countries. Big pharma companies are usually active in R&D of such products only to a small degree, managing these activities through their foundations or other constructs that provide access on a more or less pro bono basis, together with WHO or public-private
partnerships. This is by far not sufficient to solve health problems in developing countries – and the system fully depends on funding pledged by countries and philanthropic organizations. Leveraging the know-how of private enterprises for Global Health topics clearly could boost innovation. However, a viable business model for the field still needs to be established.

Some small companies from Germany and Austria have emerged as developers of vaccines, therapeutics or diagnostic equipment aimed at neglected tropical diseases or conditions that are way more common in developing countries than in Europe or the US. They are in the earlier stages of development, many get funding from philanthropists. Do they plan to make a solid business case or are these projects mere shells for different development projects? What challenges do they face? What do investors think about such endeavours? And how do people in the developing countries (from patients to local healthcare providers) perceive those companies?

It’s a crucial point in time to find answers to those questions as certain trends may play into the entrepreneurs’ hands: For many highly qualified young professionals, social entrepreneurship is an important argument when they choose between jobs. And within the investment community, a company’s contribution to the UN‘s SDGs is becoming a decisive factor for financing decisions. On the other hand, if this generation of entrepreneurs fails, chances are nobody will want to try anymore.

This project approaches the complex topic from different angles:

  • Follow the journey of a few German and Austrian companies that have Global Health projects at the hearts of their businesses: Themis (Chikungunya, Zika, Lassa Vaccines), Curevac (Malaria, Rota Vaccines), Ferrosens (Non-invasive Anemia Diagnostic), Sysmex Deutschland (Flow Cytometry Diagnostics)
  • Reality check: To find out what lies ahead of them, if existing support mechanisms are sufficient, what mistakes to avoid or if they are even welcome the project approaches people on the ground where large clinical studies are done
  • A leading example? The Indian pharma industry has long shown – not without controversies - it’s possible to make a living selling cheap generics in poor countries. For years they have claimed they want to do the same with innovative medicines. Has there been any progress, and if not, why?

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