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Pandemic Medicine: Why the Global Innovation System Is Broken, and How We Can Fix It

Kathryn C. Ibata-Arens
Pandemic Medicine: Why the Global Innovation System Is Broken, and How We Can Fix It
ISBN: 978-1-62637-969-5
ISBN: 978-1-62637-971-8
ISBN: 978-1-955055-17-8
2021/217 pages/LC: 2021015856
Advances in International Political Economy
"Presents a powerful critique of our current system of biomedical innovation dominated by the aggressive pursuit of intellectual property. Drawing on rich case studies from China, India, and Japan, Ibata-Arens shows that government can foster the creation of an innovative commons, sandboxes in which private and public actors can collaborate to create needed innovations." —Steve Casper, Keck Graduate Institute

"Provides an essential counter-narrative to the pervasive rhetoric that we must rely on the closed intellectual property rights system and private markets to fund and produce medical innovations.... This book stands as a call for a new ethic of worldwide collaboration, an ethic that must be at the forefront of any efforts to change the current system if the commons-based approach that Ibata-Arens describes, and that the world sorely needs, is ever to be adopted." —Joshua Sarnoff, DePaul University College of Law

"A fascinating and enlightening book that resonates singularly with the current pandemic, and also with the environmental crisis. Based on a rich conceptualization and in-depth analysis of various examples, the book invites us to question the effectiveness and sustainability of the Western system of biomedical innovation … and to turn our gaze to alternative innovation systems that are much older but that have renewed relevance in the last decades." —Etienne Nouguez, Sciences Po Paris

"Ibata-Arens's accessibly written, and timely, book offers a compelling argument: that profit-and patent-driven drug development must be replaced by a global system of sharing innovation commons, including those harvested from nature. Short of this transformation, pandemics may become more common than we currently imagine!"—Anthony P. D'Costa, The University of Alabama Huntsville


Winner of the Andrew Price-Smith Book Award!

Despite a century of advances in modern medicine, as well as the rapid development of Covid vaccines, the global pharmaceutical industry has largely failed to bring to market drugs that actually cure disease. Why? And looking further ... How can government policies stimulate investment in the development of curative drugs? Is there an untapped potential for "natural medicines" in new drug discovery? How have private–public sector partnerships transformed the ways we innovate? To what extent are medicinal plant biodiversity and human health codependent?

Addressing this range of increasingly critical questions, Kathryn Ibata-Arens analyzes the rise and decline of the global innovation system for new drug development and proposes a policy framework for fast-tracking the implementation of new discoveries and preparing for future pandemics.


Kathryn C. Ibata-Arens is Vincent de Paul Professor of Political Economy at DePaul University.


  • An Innovation Commons: The Global System for New Drug Discovery.
  • Twilight of the (Big Pharma) Gods: The Rise and Decline of Innovation.
  • Books of Remedies: China's Drug (Re)Discovery  Politics.
  • The Turmeric War: India Takes on the World Trade Organization and Big Pharma.
  • Medicine Gardens: Japan's Investment in New Drug Discovery.
  • A Way Forward: Bringing Innovative Solutions to Global Human Health Problems.