The proposal to establish regional innovation networks in the ASEAN territory, Asia including China and India, and South America is an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). While still in its early stages, these regions are undergoing independent R&D mapping activities. These countries will come together at a later stage to set the framework for the implementation of the larger regional innovation network.

In the ASEAN region, local coordinators from Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have started the mapping process to assess the product R&D landscape for infectious tropical diseases in the ASEAN region. This project has been endorsed by the ASEAN SubCommittee on Biotechnology on its 40th meeting in Bali, Indonesia in May 2009.

While the focus is on infectious tropical diseases, the mapping project aims to establish the overall research capacity of ASEAN countries in diagnostics, drugs, traditional medicine, and vaccine innovation and their ability to respond to local public health needs.

Similarly, a Chinese network has been launched following a big meeting in October 2009 in Shanghai. India is expected to conduct a brainstorming meeting and mapping process in 2010. An Asia-wide meeting is also mulled for 2010 to explore the feasibility a broader Asian-NDI.

These regional networks form the core of activities that belong in the TDR Business Line on Innovation for Product Development in Disease-Endemic Countries (BL4), envisioned to foster the discovery and development of novel drugs, diagnostic tests and other products. The business plan comprises the following specific objectives:

1. to develop projects leading to the discovery and development of novel diagnostic tests, drugs and other products for tropical diseases carried out by teams of collaborating investigators and institutions in DECs;

2. to provide a platform and framework for scientific, legal and ethical support to facilitate DEC leadership of projects and partnerships for the discovery and development of pharmaceutical products; and

3. to facilitate creation of south based 'spin-offs' (e.g. public private partnerships, networks of academic institutions and not-for profit foundations) focusing on and dedicated to innovation for discovery and development of drugs and diagnostic tests in DECs.

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