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      Governments must fund pharma research to help poor: Laureate

      Posted AtThe Hindu

      Appreciating that globalisation has brought countries closer, a Nobel Laureate has cautioned that the phenomenon should be used to solve the problems of poor nations and not just for meeting countries' selfish goals.

      Speaking on the sidelines of 93rd Indian Science Congress, Nobel laureate from Switzerland Richard R Ernst said that while globalisation had brought the countries together, it also had a damaging effect.

      "Globalisation should be used to solve the problems of the poor and not just for meeting countries' own selfish goals," he said.

      "What is damaging is the fact that globalisation is being used for advancing profits. This is widening the gap between rich and poor countries," he said and added that free markets should not be used by rich nations to exploit less developed countries.

      However, free markets had led to exploitation of poor and for widening of gap within countries and between countries, he said.

      Ernst said that as patenting makes medicines unaffordable for the poor countries, states themselves should invest on research on diseases such as malaria which affect these countries.

      The problem with research funding

      "Patenting is problematic. But companies which invest money in research on drug development need protection for financial returns," Ernst said. Thus investments on diseases such as malaria that affect poor should be made by the states (governments) themselves, he suggested.

      Ernst said that science was universal in nature and thus could be used to bridge the gap between nations. "It has clues to hold the world together," he said.

      In this context, international organsations such as UN and WHO have a role to protect the poor nations from the damaging influence of globalisation, he said.

      The scientist said that research for the purpose of commercial purposes was "dangerous". "When research goes into the hands of companies, they do it mainly for making money. This is dangerous."

      Commenting on the controversy related to cloning research in South Korea, in which a scientist is alleged to have made false claims, he said that pressure from governments and scientific community to make spectacular discoveries and a desire to become famous may lead to such episodes.

      "Scientists are also human beings...," he said. Ernst had received the Chemistry Nobel prize in 1991.

      January 04, 2006


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