On World Malaria Day, 25 April 2017, Policy Cures Research highlights the vital need for investment in malaria R&D to deliver new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and vector control products.
Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The two most common types of malaria are caused by Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Left untreated, malaria can cause severe illness and death, with children and pregnant women being the most vulnerable (70% of malaria deaths are children under five years of age) (World Malaria Report, 2016). Despite progress in reduced cases over the past decades, malaria continues to have a devastating impact. Malaria caused more than 56 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and at least 730,290 deaths in low- and middle-income countries in 2015 (IHME, 2016).
New malaria drugs and vector control products are needed in response to the emergence of resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) and pyrethroids. Cheap, sensitive and specific rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are available, but their quality and heat stability can be problematic. The 9th annual G-FINDER report, launched February 2017, showed that malaria received $565m in R&D funding in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of all malaria R&D funding went to developing new drugs ($238m, 42%) or vaccines ($128m, 23%), with a further quarter ($128m, 23%) going to basic research. Vector control products ($32m, 5.7%) and diagnostics ($15m, 2.6%) received significantly smaller investments.
About: G-FINDER is the most comprehensive source of data on global funding for neglected disease R&D. For more information and analysis on financing trends in neglected diseases such as TB, leprosy and trachoma, see the full 2016 G-FINDER report. For more information on promising new candidates currently in development for neglected diseases including malaria, see the Policy Cures Research pipeline.
April 2017: R&D for Chagas’ disease
On World Chagas Day, 14th April 2017, Policy Cures Research highlights the pressing need for R&D funding to deliver new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for Chagas’ disease.
First described by Carlos Justiniano Ribeiro Chagas in 1909, Chagas’ disease, also known as American trypanosomiasis, is a kinetoplastid caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (or T. cruzi).
Chagas’ disease is primarily transmitted by the blood-sucking triatomine bug species, but can also be transmitted from mother to child and through blood and organ transfusions. In 2015, Chagas’ disease caused an estimated 8,047 deaths globally, disproportionately affecting people in developing countries. An estimated 236,131 Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) were attributed to Chagas’ disease in 2015, the vast majority of which were also in developing countries.
Chagas needs preventive and therapeutic vaccines; safe, effective drugs that are suitable for children; treatments for the chronic form of the disease; and diagnostics that can reliably detect chronic disease and monitor treatment in low resource settings. The two drugs currently used (benznidazole and nifurtimox) are toxic, lack specificity and require multiple dosing for several months, increasing the likelihood of non-compliance and drug resistance. A childhood benznidazole formulation was registered in Brazil in 2011, and the only drug in clinical development is an azole/benznidazole combination for chronic Chagas’ disease. The latest G-FINDER report launched by Policy Cures Research, found that $18m was invested into Chagas’ disease research and development globally in 2015. Investments included $8.2m for drugs, $7.2m for basic research, 1.2m for vaccines and $1.2m for diagnostics.
Figure i: Chagas’ disease R&D funding by product type 2015 Source: 9th G-FINDER Report, Policy Cures Research, p. 35
About: G-FINDER is the most comprehensive source of data on global funding for neglected disease R&D. For more information and analysis on financing trends in neglected diseases such as TB, leprosy and trachoma, see the full 2016 G-FINDER report. For more information on promising new candidates currently in development for neglected diseases including Chagas’ disease, see the Policy Cures Research pipeline.
March 2017: R&D crucial in the fight against TB
On World TB Day, 24 March 2017, Policy Cures Research highlights the critical need for R&D funding to deliver new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for tuberculosis (TB).
In 2015, TB was responsible for more than 1.1 million deaths globally. But with just 1% of these deaths occurring in high-income countries, global investment in TB R&D remains woefully inadequate. Just two new TB drugs have been developed in the last 50 years; current drug regimens are complex, often ineffective, and can require up to 2 years of treatment, fuelling drug resistance and treatment failure. New and affordable diagnostics are also urgently needed. The World Health Organization reports “more than a third (4.3 million) of people with TB go undiagnosed or unreported”. The current vaccine – now nearly a century old – offers little or no protection against TB in adults.
The good news is that the pipeline of promising new drug, diagnostic and vaccine candidates has flourished over the last decade and a half. But increased global investment in TB R&D is vital to translate this promise into reality. The 9th annual G-FINDER report, launched in Brussels in February 2017, found that $567m was invested in TB R&D globally in 2015. Almost half of this investment went to drug development ($263m, 46%), followed by basic research ($135m, 24%), preventive vaccines ($98m, 17%) and diagnostics ($42m, 7.4%).
Figure i: TB R&D funding by product type 2007-2015 Source: 9th G-FINDER Report, Policy Cures Research p.25
About: G-FINDER is the most comprehensive source of data on global funding for neglected disease R&D. For more information and analysis on financing trends in neglected diseases such as TB, leprosy and trachoma, see the full 2016 G-FINDER report. For more information on promising new candidates currently in development for neglected diseases including TB, see the Policy Cures Research pipeline.
February 2017: Neglected Disease Research and Development 9th G-FINDER Report Launched
G-FINDER is the most comprehensive report on public and private funding into research and development (R&D) for neglected diseases such as malaria, TB, pneumonia, sleeping sickness and leprosy. This year’s G-FINDER report showed that global funding for neglected disease R&D approached historic lows in 2015, driven by declining public sector investment, particularly from the US.
Speaking on the panel, Bill Gates encouraged more investment in neglected disease R&D, pointing out that investing in new tools is the only way we will be able to beat these diseases. Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation said “we must act, not react” in terms of global health investment in neglected diseases.
On a more positive note, Dr Nick Chapman, Executive Director of Policy Cures Research, noted that – in sharp contrast to the public sector – industry investment in neglected disease R&D reached historical highs in 2015 “this was the fourth year in a row that industry has increased its investment in neglected disease R&D – the only sector to have recorded year-on-year growth for such a stretch.”
This ninth report in the G-FINDER series looks at 2015 global investment for R&D into new products for neglected diseases. The survey data covers 39 diseases (including Ebola and other African viral haemorrhagic fevers, which have been analysed separately), 151 product areas for these diseases, including drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, microbicides, vector control products and platform technologies.