Module 4: The Role of Universities in Global Health (GH)

4.1 Improving Access to Essential Medicines

“As major contributors to drug development, universities are uniquely positioned to influence the way lifesaving medical technologies are developed and deployed. Universities own patent rights in key pharmaceuticals to treat HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hepatitis B, and countless other diseases. In fact, a U.S. Senate report in 2000 found that 15 of the 21 drugs with the greatest therapeutic impact were developed using funded research, most of which occurs at universities. So far, however, drugs developed at universities remained largely out of reach for millions of the destitute sick in the developing world.” – Universities Allied for Essential Medicines(1)

Universities engage in basic research and develop drugs. However, unlike pharmaceutical companies, universities are often not profit-oriented. Because they own the patent rights to many drugs, universities are in a position to negotiate price concessions, improving access to drugs which are essential to safeguard the health of the developing world. 

4.2 Neglected Diseases Research

The world’s destitute sick face a perilous disadvantage in accessing essential medicines. The crisis stems from 2 related problems. First, for the billion people affected by neglected diseases such as trypanosomiasis and cholera, few safe and effective treatment options exist. Because these neglected diseases predominantly affect the poor, they attract little research and development funding, leading to a paucity of therapies.”(2)

Universities also promote research and development for neglected diseases, identifying and developing new cures to benefit millions in the developing world.

4.3 Academia

Universities also contribute to the global health discourse through their academic research. Developing countries partner with research universities to bring the expertise of the latter to bear on development problems in low-resource environments. Some examples of academics in global health include:

Go to Module 5: Multilateral & Bilateral Organizations >>


(1) "Why Universities?." Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. 15 Jul 2009.

(2) Chokshi, D. A. and Rajkumar, R. (2007)"Leveraging University Research to Advance Global Health" The Journal of the American Medical Association. (298), 16. Accessed 15 Jul 2009.

(3) "Generation Next - Kevin Frick." Johns Hopkins Public Health Fall 2003 Web.15 Jul 2009.

(4) "Full Bio - The Earth Institute at Columbia University." The Earth Institute. Columbia University. 15 Jul 2009.

(5)"Rx for Survival. Global Health Champions. Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS/PBS." PBS. March 2006. PBS. 15 Jul 2009.

(6) "Rx for Survival. Global Health Champions. Jim Yong Kim, MD, MHS/PBS." PBS. Mar 2006. PBS. 15 Jul 2009.