Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Health technology transfer

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 30 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:817
  1. Eva Harris, assistant professor (,
  2. Marcel Tanner, directorb
  1. a Division of Infectious Diseases, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  2. b Swiss Tropical Institute, Basle, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: E Harris

    Global health relies on biomedical scientists and public health workers to solve infectious disease and other health problems at a local level. Yet investigators in developing countries face tremendous obstacles; scientific isolation, insufficient technical training and research tools, a lack of up to date scientific information, and limited financial, material, and human resources. To build local scientific capacity to monitor and control disease and to promote health, research on locally relevant issues must be supported and sustainable partnerships built to facilitate these efforts. We discuss key elements for transfer of technologies in health research and present two case studies of such programmes.

    Summary points

    More funding must be made available to scientists in developing countries and to organisations that support in-country training and research

    Genuine partnership and mutual trust is a prerequisite for the sustainable transfer of technology from developed to developing countries

    Building local scientific capacity and long term North-South and South-South partnerships are important in establishing effective health research programmes

    Research topics should have local relevance and priority, and technology transfer should be participatory, equitable, and sustained

    Autonomous research centres attract funding and reduce administrative burdens

    Developing countries need up to date technologies

    Though 93% of the world's burden of preventable mortality occurs in developing countries,1 too little research funding is targeted to health problems of developing countries, creating a dangerous funding differential.2 In addition, many modern laboratory technologies remain inaccessible in these nations. Both utilitarian and humanitarian arguments can be made for training scientists and health professionals in developing countries in the use of modern laboratory and epidemiological skills. It takes only a day or two for a pathogen to get from any one place on the planet to any other; thus, building capacity in developing countries is a necessary strategy for preventing the global spread of infectious agents.3 Additionally, as a matter …

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