October 1, 2004
Publication:
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

The purpose of this report is to focus on the role of genomics and related health biotechnologies as an example of the application of science, technology and innovation to improve global health and contribute towards meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Genomics offers a powerful new set of tools to improve health globally. The science of genomics is generating vast amounts of new knowledge, which can be used creatively in the development of new diagnostic technologies, treatments and preventive programs. This means economic opportunities for developing as well as industrialized nations. How can poorer nations get more access to genomics for development? Much genomics knowledge has been made public, so it can be considered a global public good, although private companies make use of this information to develop products and services. We need a governance mechanism that fosters a balance between the global public goods characteristics of genomics knowledge and the private goods nature of its application. We propose the creation of a global partnership, the Global Genomics Initiative (GGI), to promote genomics for health. We see this as a global network of industry leaders, academics, concerned citizens, members of NGOs and government officials, with strong representation from the developing world.

Finally, our report tackles the challenge of how to put genomics and related technologies to work in developing countries within the next 5-10 years. We feel that developing countries with the scientific capacity and institutional arrangements that allow creation, utilization, adaptation or diffusion of genomics are well positioned to harness this new science for development. We see examples of strategies that some countries have followed to institute learning processes that can help them build their national systems of innovation in biotechnology.

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