Why do drug companies strive to produce erectile dysfunction drugs instead of anti-malaria drugs? Because the former is more profitable. After all, drug companies are profit seeking organizations. Right?
Enter OneWorld Health, the first nonprofit drug developer. Through partnerships, like this one with drug giant Roche, OneWorld Health gains access to drug compounds that may be helpful in combating “neglected diseases” (those diseases that affect many people, but which are unprofitable to develop drugs for – ie. they affect people who cannot pay enough for the drugs to make them profitable).
For-profit drug companies can let OneWorld Health search their collections of chemical compounds in search of possible medicines for neglected diseases or if a drug company has an indentified compound they can donate it to OneWorld Health for development.
Of course, another model would be for drug companies to set up “dot-org” divisions akin to Google.org to create drugs for neglected diseases and chalk up the costs as part of their corporate philanthropy. But without the internal motivation to put a dot-org model in place, it seems to me that having OneWorld Health operate as an external dot-org works better because rather than relying on the drug companies to take action, OneWorld Health has a mission focused motivation to make things happen.
Jed Emerson argues in his Blended Value thesis that all organizations produce a blend of financial and social value. Maybe organizations like OneWorld Health can identify situations, like neglected diseases, where for-profit players are letting social value lay dormant due to low levels of associated financial value and work with the for-profit players to “liberate” this social value?
OneWorld Health is an organization to watch not simply for their own efforts, but to see whether a dot-org model can be brought to the for-profit sector rather than waiting on them to embrace Google’s lead.