New report shows a decline in funding for neglected disease R&D
Earlier today, the fourth annual G-FINDER report was released. This resource, developed
by Policy Cures, is the only one of its kind that maps the global level of investment in developing new vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, and other tools
that address 31 neglected diseases. This year’s report studies funding levels and trends in 2010.
The G-FINDER report illustrates the first real evidence that the global financial crisis is impacting funders’ ability to support global health research and development (R&D). The report shows a drop of 3.5% among donors who were surveyed—including public donors in high- and low-income countries, private foundations, and the pharmaceutical industry.
It is important to note that these findings merely report trends from one year to the next, and that it is essential to look at trends across multiple years to understand true patterns of change. In 2010 there were many reasons for decreased funding from some donors. For example, the Gates Foundation’s decreased funding can be largely attributed to a lower disbursement in 2010 for clinical trials of the RTS,S malaria vaccine because much of the significant funding for this research was provided up front, thus not disbursed in 2010. On the whole, funding levels in 2012 for global health R&D are higher than when the G-FINDER began tracking these numbers in 2007, which is a positive signal. That said, it is striking that in a year when the financial crisis hit its peak, public funding for global health research took an equally significant hit.
The G-FINDER report also shows that globally, the public sector plays an important role in funding research and development for neglected diseases, providing nearly two-thirds of global funding. And in 2010, contributions from public funders fell by a stark 6%, or $125 million. At the GHTC, we’re paying special attention to trends related to the US government’s expenditures:
- The US remains the largest government funder of global health research, but even its funding for global health R&D dropped significantly: down by 5%, or $74.5 million.
- Drops in overall US funding are largely attributed to a decrease in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (down $44.8 million, or by 3.6%), as well as a significant decrease in funding by the Department of Defense (DoD) (down by $28.3 million, or nearly 30%). It is of interest to note that this drop in funding from the NIH came during a year when the agency received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Even a modest increase in funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) (up $1.5 million, or roughly 1.8%) doesn’t come close to accounting for the drops by NIH and DoD.
This decline in US government funding has real and significant consequences in the near- and long-term. Without sufficient funding, groups like product development partnerships, which are leading the development of global health products, are left without the immediate resources needed to complete the final phases of clinical research. And without the tools we need to combat the most severe global health challenges, people living around the world will continue to suffer and succumb to diseases that might have been otherwise prevented or treated.
The scientific community is on the cusp of groundbreaking research that will yield powerful new tools to address global health, and now is not the time to turn back. An investment in science means an investment in the future, and policymakers in the US must keep their gaze forward as they make funding decisions today.
Note: all funding amounts included in the G-FINDER report are adjusted for inflation and reported as 2007 dollars so that they may be compared to previous G-FINDER reports, which date back to 2007.