Diagnostics for the Real World (DRW), a for-profit spinout from the Diagnostics Development Unit at the University of Cambridge, is focused on manufacturing and commercializing technologies created at the university that can help address the unmet diagnostic needs of patients in developing countries. DRW’s first product was a reliable, low-cost Chlamydia Rapid Test (CRT) that made it feasible to conduct field-based chlamydia screening in the remote, resource-poor settings. Even more importantly, the new test enabled healthcare providers to test and treat patients in a single interaction rather than having to send samples to a central laboratory and get patients to return for their results and treatment options.
As Lee and her team worked on the product, they discovered that although chlamydia was a significant global health concern, it was not necessarily a top priority for the international nongovernmental organizations and health authorities that might provide funding or become the early, high-volume customers of the CRT. Moreover, without such organizations raising awareness or advocating for expanded chlamydia screening, there was no ready-made market or large-scale demand for the CRT in developing countries. DRW would have to undertake the daunting and expensive proposition of creating the market for a test that was considered something of a niche solution. To raise the money necessary to tackle this challenge, DRW needed a funding strategy that would support its focus on reaching patients and healthcare providers in developing countries. This mini-case study describes the multi-source funding strategy DRW devised to support its operation without losing sight of its mission.
This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Helen Lee of Diagnostics for the Real World for her participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.