BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

February 09, 2015

Research Roundup: FDA Commissioner to step down, a Grand Challenge for neglected diseases, funding for reproductive health research and development, and more

Senior Program Assistant
GHTC

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg announced last week that she intends to resign from her position in March. The FDA’s Chief Scientist Dr. Stephen Orstroff will serve as the interim Commissioner. Dr. Robert Califf, founding director of the Clinical Research Institute at Duke University, and recently appointed deputy commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the FDA, is expected to be the principal candidate to fill the role permanently.

The Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund and the Gates Foundation launched a Grand Challenge last week to combat neglected diseases, including malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, and visceral leishmaniasis. The Fund intends to grant US$2 million per year for the research and development (R&D) of new drugs, vaccines, or diagnostics, and up to $1 million per year for each product. GHIT also announced last week that it will invest $637,000 into the development and testing of chemical compounds in the pursuit of more effective products to prevent and treat malaria. The funding will be directed into a partnership between GHTC member Medicines for Malaria Venture and Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo.

Policy Cures—an independent research group and author of the annual G-FINDER report which analyzes global spending on global health R&D—released its first-ever report on reproductive health R&D for developing countries. The report reveals that just $88 million was spent on developing country-specific reproductive health R&D in 2013, $63 million of which was spent on contraceptive R&D. The report explores the limited funding and major gaps in reproductive health R&D, highlighting the need for affordable products that are easily delivered, administered, or stored; have multiple purposes; and do not have major side-effects.

A recent study reveals that the United Kingdom’s top 25 universities—in terms of public funding for medical research—spend just 1.7 percent of their health research budgets on neglected diseases. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine topped the list, spending 68 percent of their health research on diseases that impact people in developing countries, however, all but 5 of the top 25 allocated less than 10 percent of their medical research budgets to neglected diseases.

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