Survey Examines Disease R&D Investment In 2008

According to an annual survey released Tuesday by the George Institute for International Health that looks at research and development (R&D) funding of diseases that affect the developing world, the U.S. government in 2008 “remained the single biggest contributor as it again provided almost half of the total funding but the report notes developing countries like Brazil [and] India … were becoming a growing force,” AAP/Sydney Morning Herald reports (Rose, 12/15).

The survey, which includes funding for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, found total funding for R&D of “neglected disease products” rose from $2.56 billion in 2007 to $2.96 billion in 2008, according to the report (.pdf). “This increase was largely driven by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which increased its funding by $164.9m in 2008, masking decreases in real funding from all other sectors apart from multinational companies (MNCs), who showed a small increase of $0.9m,” the study authors report.

“The modest increase in absolute funding during 2008 was unevenly distributed, with four areas receiving the bulk of the additional funds: malaria (a $42.1m increase), bacterial pneumonia and meningitis ($23.9m), HIV/AIDS ($14.3m) and helminth infections ($9.8m),” the study authors write. “The U.S. Government was by far the greatest public sector contributor to neglected disease R&D, providing 67.2% ($1.26bn) of total public funding in 2008. The European Commission and European governments collectively contributed 22.0% ($411.8m) of total public funding. Two developing countries were among the top 5 government funders of neglected disease R&D in 2008, Brazil with an investment of $ 36.8m (2.0%) and India ($32.5m, 1.7%),” according to the study (Moran et al., 12/15).

“A key finding of the G-FINDER survey was that, for some diseases, traditional donor funding is being replaced by investment from pharmaceutical companies and Innovative Developing Countries (IDCs) such as Brazil, India and South Africa,” according to a George Institute press release. “Where there is no profitable market, as with many of the diseases that affect sub Saharan Africa, R&D remains heavily reliant on traditional donor and philanthropic funding,” according to the release.

“These are tough economic times but, for the first time, we are seeing that for some neglected diseases the traditional reliance on charitable funding and donor aid is being replaced by a market and domestically driven R&D,” said Mary Moran of the George Institute for International Health, one of the co-authors of the report, which was funded by the Gates Foundation (12/15).

In related news, Nature Biotechnology News examines how two tech transfer initiatives in Brazil and India are helping to bolster local vaccine R&D. The article details how the joint ventures evolved and plans for the programs. The article also includes comments by several representatives from the pharmaceutical industry (Neto/Jayaraman, 12/09).

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