Local Knowledge, Market Construction and Globalization : Two Modes of Pharma Innovation in the Global South (PHARMASUD)


From 2009 to mid-2013 this programme explored modes of production, mobilization and transfer of knowledge associated with the invention of new drugs in two countries of the global South – Brazil and India. In Brazil, the project has studied study a "regime of copy" associated with the making of generics. This system was initially set up by the Brazilian state in order to fight the Aids epidemics ; it is now extended to other neglected disorders. In India, the project focused on a "reformulation regime" applied to traditional Indian medicines to industrialize and export plant and other complex preparations used against chronic rather than infectious diseases.

aThe programme investigated this dynamic of knowledge production at different scales combining the local and the global. While studies of pharmaceutical innovation in the South have focused on question of knowledge transfer and technological dependency, we have investigated models that have emerged in the South and represent alternatives to both the postwar chemical culture of screening and the patent system of appropriation. Both models create local knowledge in response to global constrains ; both contribute to the emergence of global markets and of new international regulation of drugs quality and intellectual property. Pharmasud has analysed the differences between these regimes as well as their internal tensions. While the regime of copy developed in Brazil reproduces classical molecular knowledge in a state-based public health context, the regime of reformulation observed in India industrializes preparations originating in indigenous medical systems through a complex interplay with biomedicine.

The programme, funded by the French National Research Agency, involved the Cermes3 in Paris and the French Institute of Pondicherry and was coordinated by Maurice Cassier (P.I.) and Laurent Pordié (Co-P.I., in charge of the Indian chapter).

The success and originality of this programme in the study of Indian traditions have prompted us to expand its approach (while rethinking it) to the Asian region at large. These developments led to the creation of PharmAsia.