September 07, 2014

Research Roundup: Funding global health R&D, the neglected disease pipeline, Ebola vaccines, FDA approvals, and more

Senior Program Assistant

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

As the world’s worst outbreak of Ebola continues to kill thousands of people in West Africa, pharmaceutical companies are beginning to focus their efforts of developing an effective vaccine that could prevent future outbreaks. Recently, both GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson have announced plans to begin conducting human clinical trials for a vaccine.

In a recent blog post in Breakthroughs, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung writes about the urgent need to improve the global health situation, and how they continue to advocate for health improvements in low- and middle-income countries. As part of this work, they have launched a series of policy briefs on the issue of global health research and development (R&D), outlining why we need to increase financial and political support (in Europe) for efforts aimed at creating new ways to tackle diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

In a new article in PLOS, global health experts write on how the international community can fund global health R&D projects. After the World Health Assembly meeting last May, four demonstration projects were selected by Member States to apply new approaches to neglected disease research. Funding for these projects will come from a pooled international fund.

A new paper takes a more detailed look into the pipeline for neglected diseases, finding 650 clinical studies for diseases primarily affecting populations in low- and middle-income countries. The study’s authors found that research centers and public organizations are the most important clinical trial sponsors (58.9 percent), followed by the pharmaceutical industry (24.1 percent), and foundations and nongovernmental organizations (9.3 percent).

Thus far in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the same amount of novel new medicines it did for the entire year in 2013. To date, the FDA has approved 27 novel new medicines—which includes biologics. If the agency continues at this rate, it may come close to matching the 39 novel new medicines approved in 2012.