The WHO Dealmakers: Sending Vaccine Technology To The Third World

Empowering countries to make their own vaccines may sound like a herculean task, but it is all in a day’s work for the Technology Transfer Initiative team at the World Health Organization.

Singapore: the first WHO technology transfer hub in Asia?

Singapore may host the first WHO Center of Excellence on biotherapeutics in Asia (Photo: Flickr/moonsymphony).

With three technology hubs based in Europe – one in the Netherlands and two in Switzerland, is the WHO Technology Transfer Initiative team hoping to establish its first hub in Asia?

Friede tells us that he is here to learn more about the city-state, and to find ways for both parties to collaborate. He is in discussions with Singapore’s lead government science agency, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), for the country to potentially host a Center of Excellence on biotherapeutics here.

He recalls a meeting in December last year in Cape Town, South Africa, where policy makers realized that the absence of a skilled workforce in the developing world is the biggest barrier to the sustainable production of vaccines there.

He then compares Singapore to South Africa, a country close to his heart. Unlike South Africa, which has a very weak biomanufacturing cluster despite its excellent education system, Singapore has somehow managed to establish one in the span of ten years.

Thus, Friede is here to understand the governmental policies that have led to the sustainability of its biomanufacturing industry, with A*STAR as an example of such infrastructure.

“Singapore is a highly unique country which has a large biomanufacturing workforce that appears to be created by design. Thirty years ago, Singapore did not have a biomanufacturing workforce. And now you have one of the leading biomanufacturing workforces on earth,” he said.

One can only hope that these meetings have been fruitful for both Singapore and WHO, and wish Friede and his WHO team all the best as they tirelessly crisscross the world, transferring critical technologies to the developing world.


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