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Accessing Modern Science: Policy and Institutional Options for Agricultural Biotechnology in Developing Countries

bioDevelopments International Institute Inc. in collaboration with the Strategic World Initiative For Technology Transfer (SWIFTT), IP Strategy Today N° 1 – 2001 (2001)

While the private sector dominates biotechnology research, there are significant market failures in harnessing this research for the benefit of poor producers and consumers in developing countries. The public sector, national and international, will have to play a major role in filling this gap, and to do so will have to build capacity to develop innovative partnerships with the private sector in order to gain access to needed research tools and technologies. The paper highlights the complexity of the challenge in developing new forms of collaboration between a variety of actors in the biotechnology area in developing countries: national research systems with very diverse capacities in biotechnology, international research centers, local private R&D companies, global life science companies, and advanced research institutes in both industrialized and developing countries. Examples and case studies are provided from strong programs (such as India, China, and Brazil), which will be tool developers as well as users. Other programs are developing an adaptive capacity in biotechnology to use tools and methods developed elsewhere, but a large number of countries currently have research systems with virtually no capacity in molecular biology. Each type of program presents special challenges and opportunities for accessing the new technologies, based on facilitation of private investments, public-private partnerships, local capacity to design around proprietary technologies, working with CGIAR centers as intermediaries and partners, and regional collaboration and consortia. Policy and institutional issues for accessing modern science are then discussed at various levels—research institute, national, regional, and global. Many of the challenges involve developing appropriate strategies and capacities in the management of intellectual property within the public sector. Public research organizations will also need to define their bargaining chips and assert ownership, while developing innovative means of segmenting markets that complement private sector interests.

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