By Dennis Posadas Contributor THE scenario is all too familiar. A young Filipino, after having completed his masters or PhD in engineering or the sciences, decides to leave for abroad to seek greener pastures. Or even, a returnee Filipino with an advanced degree from abroad, returning with hope in his eyes, only to leave again, disillusioned by what he can work on and what he will earn. Or even the fact that many of our small- and medium-sized Philippine companies cannot afford to do R&D to improve their products to make them world class. But if they had a world-class R&D Institute that can help them, but for a fraction of the cost, wouldn't that be great? One of the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (COMSTE)’s main recommendations is to setup a local version of Taiwan’s R&D jewel, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). In the 70’s, when the GDP of Taiwan was still based on agriculture and low cost manufacturing, their leaders decided that they wanted to copy Silicon Valley. To do this, they setup the ITRI, in the city of Hsinchu. The ITRI ever since has become Taiwan’s top source of innovation and technology spin offs. Every day, many patents are made at ITRI, and a lot of Taiwanese companies do business with it. In fact ITRI has spun off many tech companies like the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC), United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) as well as others. In fact, even musical instrument and bicycle companies in Taiwan work with ITRI to improve their products through R&D. ITRI is in the business of innovation. The main difference between ITRI and the R&D institutes we have now, that are either government owned (like DoST’s ASTI) and those in the private sector (like what some companies have), is that ITRI is a semi-government, semi-private entity. In other words, it is a public-private partnership. Have you ever noticed any of our technologies developed locally that have been commercialized, particularly from government laboratories? Very few. This is because government is not really setup to commercialize things, although hopefully with the passage of the Technology Transfer Act (patterned after the US Bayh-Dole Act) that will change. But still, one of the things we do not really see much of locally is what we call academe-industry interaction at the highest level. By that I mean that although we do see activities like cadet engineering internships, we do not see the type of research where a company outsources its research to an outside R&D entity. There are, but not a lot. So how does this involve the poor scientist and how does this hopefully convince him to stay here? By offering the young scientists a venue to work on real problems with industry. The ITRI Philippines will be a shared venue for Philippine companies that do not have money to do R&D. But if they share the expenses of running ITRI, we will have a place where young brilliant Filipino scientists can work on problems that will be used by our local companies, and potentially create opportunities for technology startups to sprout. ITRI Philippines should ideally be run like a private venture, but with a government stake. It should try to go after R&D contracts with Philippine companies. By being competitive, by operating in this manner, the researchers can share in the fruits of the success of this institute. The details of ITRI Philippines are still being worked out. But if you are interested in giving inputs, feel free to checkout the COMSTE website at http://www.comste.gov.ph. Dennis Posadas is the Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering. His new book Jump Start: A Technopreneurship Fable, will be published by Pearson Education Asia this Summer 2009.
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By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--Colored tags attached to tuna species like the “tangi” or “tambakul” can earn fishermen or consumers money rewards, an official of the Department of Agriculture said Monday. “This tuna tagging project carries a $10 reward for yellow tag, $50 for green tag and $250 for orange tag. The latter two have accompanying devices inserted in the body cavity of the fish (near the abdomen). The tag on the former is attached on the back of the fish near the second dorsal fin,” said Malcolm Sarmiento, director Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in DA’s press statement. “We are calling on our fishermen and the consuming public to surrender to BFAR or the LGUs, any tag found in fishes particularly big-eye, skipjack, or yellowfin tuna and other marine fishes, as these are part of scientific studies,” Sarmiento said. Sarmiento told INQUIRER.net that people can return the tags at the nearest BFAR office to get their reward. The official said the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute under BFAR would give the corresponding reward. The Philippines is part of a Tuna tagging project spearheaded by the Oceanic Fisheries Programme (OFP) based in New Caledonia, according to Sarmiento. “The tagging is done to aid the management measures and to validate the changes in migratory patterns of large pelagic species like tuna, which might be brought about by climate change,” added Sarmiento in a phone interview with INQUIRER.net. In a statement issued by OFP, the tagging project would provide information on fishery exploitation rates and population sizes in the Western and Central Pacific.
By Dennis Posadas* Contributor THE Philippines held a National R&D Conference at the University of the Philippines last December 2008 to try to synergize its research and development (R&D) efforts in science and technology, particularly in the government. The conference involved most of the government departments and state colleges and universities that have R&D programs. At present, like in most countries, R&D budgets are scattered across many government R&D units and agencies. Getting these agencies and their staff to work together can sometimes be a gargantuan undertaking. In a December 2008 article in the Washington D.C. based journal Science, the Philippines was reported to have spent $81million in R&D in 2007, and this spending has remained basically the same throughout the last decade. This amount represents roughly 0.14% of GDP, a far cry from that of developed countries which often reaches 2%, and is also less than its regional neighbors like Thailand (0.26%) and Malaysia (0.69%). Worse, this amount is not a homogenous figure but is actually the sum total of government R&D spending scattered across many departments and agencies. In a country colonized by Spain and the United States, where the saying goes that it went through âthree hundred years of the Church and fifty years of Hollywood,â the normal mode of operation is to take the allocation from the national budget, and in a laizzez faire manner, do whatever one institution or department pleases in R&D. Now this approach may work in countries that have a lot of money to bet on whatever one fancies. Silicon Valley for example in the United States has never adopted any national roadmap for R&D. Instead, its legions of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists pursue their own ideas and let the market decide which ones will be the winners and which ones will eat the dust. But that should not be the case for developing countries like the Philippines. While $81 million is a lot of money for S&T in this country, nevertheless it is chump change compared to other countries. Notwithstanding the fact that labor is cheaper here, even to hire MS and PhD science and engineering graduates, the fact is that scattering this money in a random manner will not yield useful economic results. Take for example the fact that many state colleges and universities are duplicating R&D efforts, instead of trying to find a way to divide up the work and specialize in particular fields. This tends to weaken further the already small amount devoted by this archipelagic country to R&D. A Keynesian (named after economist John Maynard Keynes) national R&D approach should be adopted by the Philippines, where the national S&T roadmap is set by scientists and technologists from the ground up. The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) has picked some fields that the Philippines should specialize in. Since it wields the funding carrot, it has some ability to direct the areas of research. But it has not totally been successful in this effort, judging from the outcome of the National R&D Conference. In order to drive a nail into a piece of wood, you need a strong strike in a concentrated place, and not a lot of small taps in many places. Obviously if you only have $81 million to bet (although this will probably see some increase), you need to pick certain winners and drop certain fields. A small amount of random research, picked from the grassroots by universities themselves can be allowed, but the bulk of the money should be put in certain areas where it can produce results ranging from published papers, to patents, to commercialized technologies, particularly since the need of the times calls for the creation of new jobs and industries from R&D. Take for example the recently passed Renewable Energy Act of the Philippines. This new law creates a mandate for electric utilities to purchase renewable energy in increasing amounts over the next few years, and gives a lot of fiscal incentives and tax breaks to entrepreneurs and investors who go into this area. Obviously this mandate creates a market for clean energy technologies, many of which can be supplied by clean technology companies spun off from R&D. In fact, a renewable energy R&D center, funded by fossil fuel levies, will hopefully create the technologies that can form the basis for new companies and jobs in this sector. But that will only happen, just like in the hammer and nail analogy, if the R&D is in synch with the investor community, with the needs of the market, with the legal and financial framework, and with the culture of the researchers and entrepreneurs. A laizzez faire mentality works in the U.S. but here, it looks like a Keynesian big hammer approach where everyone coordinates their efforts is the only way to achieve this, especially since the amount of money is, by world standards, quite small. The problem is complex, and involves financial, legal and cultural constraints. But there are certain issues that can be resolved that will lead to a realignment of R&D money in the Philippines. First, the percentage of R&D spending to GDP ratio is too simplistic. If one compares the percentage GDP of R&D in the Philippines to Thailand and Malaysia, obviously it is too small. But this ratio does not say anything about how you use this money effectively. One country can have a slightly smaller percentage GDP ratio, but if it spends that money more efficiently than another country that has a greater percentage GDP ratio, then that difference may not be of much consequence. A proper metric, aside from percentage GDP, should include a measure of how well the country is able to publish papers, is able to issue patents, and is able to commercialize technology, from a unit of currency spent on R&D. Otherwise, the focus is on the total amount spent on R&D, which may not be enough to solve the problem. Second, while the capability of scientists to innovate is important, it is also important that they be willing to work in synch with other scientists and with other scientific institutions, in order to complement each other and not have redundant efforts. One issue that complicates things is a difficulty in getting agreement on what technology directions to pursue. The anthropologic and cultural cause of this issue is beyond the scope of this article, but that is what we see in the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). National directions in S&T might be set and arrived at from the top, but this does not always trickle down to the bottom. Perhaps the answer lies in using technology to get everyoneâs inputs, and then show where the scientific and technical community consensus lies. Third, the politician should marry the scientist. To some extent, the politicians who run COMSTE have been trying to do this, but the impact on the public imagination still needs some work. The ideal is of course, a JFK exhorting Americans to go to the moon, or a Barack Obama pledging to cut dependence on Middle East oil in ten years. Those national statements, coming from American politicians, have been based on the advice of noted scientific groups in the U.S. But in the Philippines, a general distrust of politicians coupled with a lack of real mainstream media interest in science, and a lack of clear communication between politicians and scientists, seems to have made what can be bang into a whimper. Lastly, the traditionally rigid government bureaucracy (of which I am a part) needs to allow for some flexibility. Take for instance auditing and purchasing. Best practices in procuring scientific and technical materials and equipment need to be benchmarked with fast moving countries, without sacrificing proper purchasing and procurement regulations. There is of course a reason why these rules were installed in the first place, but they also need to take into account the speed of technology change, in order for the Philippines to remain competitive in S&T. Surely countries like the Philippines need to increase their R&D spending beyond the current levels. But to simply equate progress in R&D with an increase in spending will not be enough. How the money is spent to yield published papers, patents and marketable technologies is the more important problem that needs to be faced. More importantly, it is not just about the money, but it is about getting a national consensus of the politicians and the public to back those R&D programs solidly, from private sector support, to investor support, to legal and non-government organization support, to even the public support. Until this synergy happens, the promise of R&D in science and technology will never be fulfilled. Like in roulette, sometimes the answer is to put your chips in as many places as you want to ensure some small wins. But in these gloomy economic times, it looks like as Keynes would argue, it is time for everyone to agree that government needs to make the best big bets in certain areas and skip other areas, in order to create new industries and jobs. Dennis Posadas is the Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). He is also the author of Jump Start: A Technopreneurship Fable to be published by Pearson Prentice Hall this April 2009.
Agence France-Presse CHICAGO--Tickle a locust's hind legs and two hours later it will be transformed into an insect ready to form a crop-devastating swarm. While researchers know why -- the tickling simulates the jostling that usually solitary locusts experience when limited food suppliers force them to crowd -- they have puzzled for decades over how the radical biological transformation occurs. A study released Thursday by the journal Science found that the brain chemical serotonin triggers the switch from aversion to attraction. "Serotonin profoundly influences how we humans behave and interact, so to find that the same chemical in the brain is what causes a normally shy antisocial insect to gang up in huge groups is amazing," said study co-author Swidbert Ott of Cambridge University. The researchers discovered that locusts in swarm mode -- called gregarious locusts -- had serotonin levels three times higher than those in a solitary behavior phase. Once in this phase, the green locusts turn bright yellow, gain large muscles that equip them for prolonged flight and actively seek the company of other locusts. They can develop into swarms of billions and fly 60 miles (96 km) in five to eight hours in search of food. But when they were injected with serotonin-blocking chemicals, locusts still in their antisocial phase remained calm and did not transform into the swarm phase in response to the leg tickling or presence of a crowd. And when the locusts were injected with chemicals that stimulated serotonin they were transformed into the swarm phase without the stimulus. "Up until now, whilst we knew the stimuli that cause locusts' amazing 'Jekyll and Hyde'-style transformation, nobody had been able to identify the changes in the nervous system that turn antisocial locusts into monstrous swarms," said study co-author Michael Anstey of University of Oxford. "The question of how locusts transform their behavior in this way has puzzled scientists for almost 90 years, now we finally have the evidence to provide an answer." While the discovery "harbors considerable potential" for dealing with the harmful insects, it will not likely to a short-term pest control solution, said Paul Anthony Stevenson of Germany's Leipzig University. "To be effective, antiserotonin-like chemicals would need to be applied when the animals are solitary locusts and scarce targets in vast expanses of desert -- about three locusts per 100 square meters (1,076 sq ft)," Stevenson wrote in an accompanying article. "Current serotonergic drugs are not designed for passing through the insect cuticle and sheath encasing the nervous system, nor are they insect-selective, hence their use is ecologically unjustifiable."
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net GOVERNMENT agencies and state universities and colleges (SUCs) must align their research and development (R&D) funding efforts, a lawmaker said. Senator Edgardo Angara said this year is a tough time and requires the country's R&D policymakers to limit research priorities to extend the value of limited resources. "We are in the midst of a recession this 2009 and we have a limited R&D budget. Given this, we must spend it wisely and ensure R&D efforts benefit the industry and create jobs," Angara said. This year, the focus of researches include solar and wind energy and vaccine research. In 2007, the country spent $81 million for R&D, or 0.14 percent of GDP, U.S. magazine Science has reported. For this year, Angara said the Congress plans to increase the current budget for R&D. But he did not give details on how much money will be allocated. COMSTE reported at the National R&D Conference in December that Filipino scientists pick their areas of research without coordination with other scientists and institutions. Thus redundant researches were seen during the conference, where many researches focused on biofuel crops, such as sweet sorghum and jathropa. To streamline the allocation of the R&D budget and reduce the occurrence of redundant researches, Angara said a group would soon monitor and integrate all budget spending across departments, agencies and SUCs. Currently, the Department of Science and Technology monitors the national R&D budget. “The challenge is how Filipino scientists and researchers can break cultural roadblocks and be able to coordinate with others on their researches. We know this is not easy but it can be done,” said Angara. “This undertaking requires commitment of all R&D stakeholders to report data accurately and a good IT system in place to analyze data.” Angara also announced during a conference the formation of two R&D institutes. One will focus on the renewable energy with budget coming from fossil fuel levies and another patterned after Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). Angara said they are still studying if the ITRI model can succeed in the country. ITRI is a contract R&D institute, which acts like a private company and gets contracts from both the government and private sector.
THE prestigious scientific publication Science Magazine has featured the Philippines' establishment of strong science, research and development programs through coordination among government offices, science and engineering firms. The story, "Philippines Plans Research Revival" written by Dennis Normile also cited the activities of the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) in its December issue. COMSTE is part of major initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and members of Congress under Senator Edgardo Angara and Cavite Representative Joseph Abaya. The Science Magazine article highlighted the “Balik Scientist” program of the DOST, which encourages repatriation of Filipino scientists and engineers by offering them positions in the country's science and technology communities. The article also featured heads of science and engineering departments, such as DOST Secretary Estrella Alabastro, COMSTE Executive Director Fortunato de la Peña and Mapua Institute of Technology President Reynaldo Vea. Returnee Filipino doctor Edsel Salvana was also cited in the article. Salvana graduated from the University of the Philippines but worked abroad, particularly in the Medical College of Wisconsin and Case Western Reserve University.
By Agence France-Presse CHICAGO -- Scientists have discovered a more efficient way of building a synthetic genome that could one day enable them to create artificial life, according to a study released Wednesday. The method is already being used to help develop next generation biofuels and biochemicals in the labs of controversial celebrity US scientist Craig Venter. Venter has hailed artificial life forms as a potential remedy to illness and global warming, but the prospect is highly controversial and arouses heated debate over its potential ramifications and the ethics of engineering artificial life. Artificially engineered life is one of the Holy Grails of science, but also stirs deep fears as foreseen in Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel "Brave New World" in which natural human reproduction is eschewed in favor of babies grown in laboratories. The J. Craig Venter Institute succeeded in synthetically reproducing the DNA of a simple bacteria last year. The researchers had initially used the bacteria e. coli to build the genome, but found it was a tedious, multi-stage process and that e. coli had difficulty reproducing large DNA segments. They eventually tried using a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This enabled them to finish creating the synthetic genome using a method called homologous recombination, a process that cells naturally use to repair damage to their chromosomes. They then began to explore the capacity for DNA assembly in yeast, which turned out to be a "genetic factory," the Institute said in a statement Wednesday. The researchers inserted relatively short segments of DNA fragments into yeast cells through homologous recombination method. They found they were able to build the entire genome in one step, according to the study set to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We continue to be amazed by the capacity of yeast to simultaneously take up so many DNA pieces and assemble them into genome-size molecules," said lead author Daniel Gibson. "This capacity begs to be further explored and extended and will help accelerate progress in applications of synthetic genomics." Senior author Clyde Hutchison added, "I am astounded by our team's progress in assembling large DNA molecules. It remains to be seen how far we can push this yeast assembly platform but the team is hard at work exploring these methods as we work to boot up the synthetic chromosome." Venter and his team continue to work towards creating a living bacterial cell using the synthetic genome sequence of the Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria. The bacteria, which causes certain sexually transmitted diseases, has one of the least complex DNA structures of any life form, composed of just 580 genes. In contrast, the human genome has some 30,000. Using the genetic sequence of this bacteria, the Maryland-based team has created a chromosome known as Mycoplasma laboratorium. They are working on developing a way to transplant this chromosome into a living cell and stimulate it to take control and effectively become a new life form.
Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- Partnership with private sectors will answer the commercialization problems in research and development (R&D) institutions, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said. Universities and institutions should partner with private sector to help commercialize technology that will benefit the people, DoST Secretary Estrella Alabastro at the opening of the National Biotechnology Week. Research and development in biotechnology, for one, has yet to attract more investments from private sector, Alabastro said. Senator Edgardo Angara agreed, as he pointed out the lack of incentives for investors to pour resources in biotechnology research and development. “Biotech will not be successful if support system is not in place,” Angara added. In 2002, Angara said the Philippine government only spent 0.15 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to research and development, while other Asian countries like Singapore invested 2.1 percent in 2006 and South Korea pouring $ 4.4B from 2000 to 2007 to R&D. Angara suggested that an independent biotechnology center of excellence should be established in the country. Meanwhile, Dr. Saturnina Halos, chair of the Biotechnology Advisory Team of the Department of Agriculture, said scientists should focus research and development on products and services targeting the public. “Kung gusto talaga nila magproduce ng [If they want to produce a] marketable product, they should really study the market,” said Halos. Alabastro said scientists should be open to collaboration, as they also keep their eyes open to the needs of end-users. One of the highlights of the National Biotechnology Week is the launch of 17 biotechnology products from the University of the Philippines Los Banos, UP Diliman, Philippine Coconut Authority, Central Luzon State University, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Carabao Center and DOST. Currently, biofertilizers, ethanol-production-inducing bacteria, micronutrient enhancement products are just some of the products being developed by these institutions.
By Agence France-Presse MEXICO CITY -- Mexican scientists have turned the country's national tipple tequila into diamonds, and are seeking applications for their discovery, with the crystals too small to be used in jewelry. The tequila diamonds could be used to "detect radiation, coat cutting tools or, above all, as a substitute for silicon in the computer chips of the future," Miguel Apatiga, one of three researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico who made the discovery this summer, told AFP Tuesday. The scientists found that the heated vapor from tequila blanco, when deposited on a stainless steel base, can form diamond films. They began experimenting some 13 years ago with synthetic diamonds -- made by a technological process, as opposed to natural diamonds, produced by geological process -- from gases like methane. Later they produced diamonds from liquids, and then noticed that the ideal compound of 40 percent ethanol and 60 percent water was similar to the proportion used in tequila. "One day I went to the campus shop and bought a bottle of cheap tequila. I used it under the same experiment conditions as for a test with ethanol and water and obtained positive results," Apatiga said. The diamonds formed were small crystals, too tiny to be used in jewelry. "It would be very difficult to obtain diamonds for a ring," Apatiga said. But the scientists are now investigating other applications for tequila diamonds. "It's true that the fact it's tequila has a certain charm. It's a Mexican product and Mexican researchers developed the project ... but a businessman can say to me: 'Great, how pretty! But how can I use it?'" Apatiga said. After the first test with a common make of tequila blanco, the group is now studying the effects of more select tequilas to find the best adapted to the surprising transformation.
By Kenneth Hartigan-Go MUCH of the clamor now in the pharmaceutical sector, both globally and locally, calls for transparency in pricing to lower the cost of medicine. International and local organizations and alliances have been formed to clamor for it. Prices are monitored and compared within and between regions throughout the world. Various mechanisms have been placed to demand transparency in pricing worldwide. However, prices remain high and thus the clamor remains. An important factor to consider why prices remain high is the inability of the government to systematize a transparent pricing mechanism. It is as if the imperfection of the market, its profit-maximizing nature, is irreversible and thus has to be accepted as innate. This should not be the case. There can be a better equitable way out of this. The government must put up a transparent mechanism in medicine pricing to influence the market to respond to the publicâ€™s call and moderate their profit-orientation. Though this first action will address the imperfection of the system, it is not enough. The second half of action involves addressing the market failure by developing a proper and responsive competitive pharmaceutical sector capable of undertaking science and technology activities. The Philippine Government has tried to respond to the call for transparency. The Department of Health and PhilHealth have come up with Drug Price Reference Index (DPRI). It works basically under the principle of informing the public of the prices of medicines, as being sold in the market, thus giving them the choice. However, though the intention is good, it does not really address the problem of high medicine prices. The DPRI is not enough. It accepts that the market may impose high prices as long as there is a cheaper counterpart. And that regulation will be left with the market forces. Further, the assumption of the PhilHealth that the public is objective enough to choose a cheaper counterpart may not be completely true, as they may be shaped by the misleading advertisements. DPRI is only a short-term solution. Drug pricing in the Philippines remain non-transparent and drug prices remain high and access by the public is adversely denied. From the account of the WHO survey for 2005, high drug cost in the Philippines is not really induced by high manufacturing or importation costs. Rather, it is caused by the price mark-up for every step of the way the drug has to go through before reaching the consumers. These prices are raised by business groups who do not contribute to research and development of the product but who merely sell the medicines through dispensing activities supposed their value added advantage. In the said survey, WHO examined both the minimum and maximum figures of the mark-up. Considering the minimum figures, the cumulative mark-up adds up to 89.51 percent of the original price, with retail as having the greatest share in mark-up (69.20 percent). On the other hand, considering the maximum figure, the cumulative mark-up adds to a maximum of 273.24 percent of the original price using the maximum figures with retail also as having the greatest share. Wholesale and retail mark-ups in this case can reach 65 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Such high mark-up hinders the accessibility of patients and is further aggravated by the consumersâ€™ lack of capability to pay. Studies have shown that a typical Filipino family (can) only allocate less than 5 percent of monthly incomes for health care (NSO, 2006). With this financial capacity, a typical Juan dela Cruz is doomed to suffer of supposedly curable diseases such as tuberculosis, without even having the medication. Such imperfect market system can be reversed into a more competitive system by putting up a transparent mechanism. A mechanism that can be considered is the Medicine Price Ratio Survey, which is not really new and thus, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. This survey is being used by the World Health Organization in different countries including the Philippines as conducted in the year 2002 and 2005. In fact, WHO advocates the use of the abovementioned survey to determine the cost and availability of essential medicines throughout the country. The Medicine Price Ratio can be used as a research-based evidence to analyze the existing market mechanisms and formulate policies. The survey findings specifically the Median Price Ratio can be used as reference for price negotiations and auditing of medicine procurements. This referencing process can introduce a more transparent pricing process and link the study to the discourse on fair pricing of medicines. The discourse on fair pricing, equity issues in access to medicines and the rights based approach to development programs will establish the issue of medicine prices as a human rights issue and therefore an integral part of oneâ€™s basic right to have access to basic health services. The government may argue that it does not have the resources to implement such national survey and that it will divert already meager resources from public service delivery like hospital support. But in fact the survey may be conducted as part of another existing national survey. Moreover, various government agencies may pull their resources to allocate for it. A part of the limited resources that will be used for the survey can not be considered as wasted as the survey will pave way for making drug access efficient through installing a competitive market. Upon correcting the system, competition may now come in and industries will be encouraged to invest in innovation. The pharmaceutical sector may go beyond the traditional activity of trading but will move towards innovation through our abundant natural resources. Kenneth Hartigan-Go is a former BFAD Deputy Director and is currently Executive Director of a foundation. He is an appointed expert member of the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) Health Panel.