Funding for neglected disease research remains stable in 2019 but long-term trends reveal a striking shift in product funding patterns
The new G-FINDER report shows that in the year leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, global funding for neglected disease R&D remained stable at US$3,9 million, despite a significant decrease in private sector funding. Reported data shows that overall funding stability was achieved as the decrease in private sector investment (down 19%) was offset by increases in funding from the public sector (up 2.8%) and philanthropic funders (up 5.2%). Further examination of 10-year investment trends reveals underlying shifts in the allocation of funds among various product categories.
Sydney, Australia, 15 April 2021– The G-FINDER report ‘Where to Now?’ reveals that private sector funding for neglected disease R&D decreased significantly in 2019, reversing much of the sector’s 2018 spike, but not coming close to reversing the effects of a decade-long upward trend in industry investment. Even after this year’s drop, funding from industry remains more than 60% higher than it was ten years before. The drop in funding in 2019 was almost entirely due to a large decline from multinational pharmaceutical companies (MNCs) (down 18%), with funding from small and medium pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies (SMEs) also decreasing by 26%. This brings industry’s contribution to 13% of global neglected disease R&D funding.
The fall in MNC funding primarily impacted clinical development funding, which in turn most heavily affected HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. Proportionally, the decrease was greatest for hepatitis C (which saw its funding fall by nearly 90% after a one-year spike in 2018), malaria (which saw a 25% drop in funding), and helminth infections (where funding was down 20%). Though funding for clinical development fell substantially, it still sits comfortably above pre-2018 levels, at the second-highest level ever reported.
At the same time, the decrease in private sector funding was offset by an increase in R&D funding from public and philanthropic funders. This was led by US National Institutes of Health (NIH), who, for the second consecutive year, provided a record amount of funding for neglected disease R&D. NIH’s funding has risen by more than $275 million over the past two years, pushing its share of global funding to 46%, its highest level since 2012. Increases in NIH funding helped to counter decreases from other funders and, for three diseases (HIV/AIDS, leptospirosis and TB), it was entirely responsible for there being a global increase, rather than an overall decline in funding.
Report shows long-term shifts in the pattern of neglected disease R&D product funding
The G-FINDER report shows that over the last 10 years, neglected disease R&D has seen a significant shift towards drug R&D funding and away from vaccine funding. At its peak in 2009, vaccine funding represented 40.4% of global funding whereas it now accounts for 31.9%. At the same time, drug R&D funding has experienced an upward trend, moving from a low of 15.8% in 2009 to 23.4% of overall funding in 2019. Like vaccines, funding for basic research has followed a downward trend, representing 20.6% of neglected R&D funding in 2019.
G-FINDER data shows that drugs received more funding than basic research in each of the last six years, and whilst vaccines are the products that continue to attract the largest amount of funding, the difference between these and drugs is narrowing, now at $307 million from a high of $829 million. Furthermore, the report finds a gradual diversification in product funding over the decade leading up to 2019. In particular, biologics, diagnostics and vector control products have benefitted from increased investments outside of the three largest product categories: basic research, vaccines and drugs.
Nick Chapman, CEO of Policy Cures Research says “Many of the features of the global response to COVID-19 sit in interesting contrast to the trends in neglected disease R&D funding we saw in 2019. After a decade of gradually declining investment in vaccines, the global response to COVID-19 has focused overwhelmingly on this area, with the emerging platforms and technologies heavily skewed towards prevention rather than cure.”
Neglected R&D funding in the COVID-19 context
Although the 2020 G-FINDER report analyses neglected disease funding for the year prior to COVID-19, it cannot be disassociated from the current pandemic. The response to COVID-19 has drawn heavily from funders of neglected disease R&D, raising concerns that funding for COVID-19 will displace R&D for other pathogens over the next few years. Whilst it is too early to measure the pandemic’s impact on neglected disease R&D funding, the G-FINDER report shows that over the past three years, substantial increases in funding for neglected diseases occurred alongside comparable increases in funding for emerging infectious disease. These simultaneous increases suggest that neglected diseases funders have divided their attention and resources between multiple areas of global health without sacrificing one for the other. That said, subsequent public-debt-driven fiscal contractions in the global economy have the potential to put significant downward pressure on funding for neglected diseases, an outcome that would be dangerously shortsighted given the lessons of the last year. The 2021 G-FINDER report will assess if the unprecedented scale of their commitments to COVID-19 has threatened and impacted this balance.
- For further information, or to request an embargoed copy of the report, please contact the Policy Cures Research team at +61 2 8218 2109 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The full G-FINDER report will be available from 10pm AEST 15 April 2021 at policycuresresearch.org/analysis.
- The G-FINDER data portal provides open access to all of the underlying data captured by the G-FINDER survey every year since 2007.
Now in its thirteenth year, G-FINDER is the most comprehensive report on global funding of R&D for neglected diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, hepatitis C and helminth infections. The annual G-FINDER report is intended to help policy makers, funders, advocacy groups and product developers understand the global landscape for neglected disease R&D and to inform their decision making on development strategies, resource allocation and collaboration. The GFINDER survey is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
About Policy Cures Research
Policy Cures Research is an independent, not-for-profit global health think tank providing research, information, decision-making tools and strategic analysis for those involved in the creation of new health technologies for neglected diseases. Its focus is on providing governments, funders, researchers and civil society organizations with the information they need to make optimal R&D policy and funding decisions for diseases of the developing world.
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