US$3billion spent on neglected disease R&D in 2008

Key findings of the second G-FINDER report, an annual survey of investment into neglected disease R&D, were launched today in New Delhi, India.

These show global funding for neglected disease R&D ground to a standstill in 2008, with funding cuts or freezes across the board including a US$26.3 million decrease in funding from High-Income Countries (HICs), a US$0.1m decrease in multilateral funding, and a halving of investment by small companies (down by US$23.8m).

Multinational company funding held steady, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation significantly increased its funding in 2008. This injection of additional funds led to a net increase of US$100.1m (3.9%) in global neglected disease R&D investment in 2008.

The G-FINDER survey found that nearly US$3billion (US$2.96bn) was spent on making new products for neglected diseases in 2008. Two organisations provided nearly 60% of global funding in this area in 2008: the US National Institutes of Health (US$1.1bn, 36.5%) and the Gates Foundation (US$617m, 20.9%). The US was by far the largest government funder, providing over two-thirds of global public funding (US$1.3bn, 67.2%), followed in distant second place by the European Commission (US$129.9m, 6.9%) and the UK (US$103.3m, 5.5%).

Many wealthy governments provided little or no funding to support development of new products for neglected diseases. Click here to view the full G-FINDER 2009 report.

"These (funding) contributions are a testament to the human bonds that link us together, even in straitened economic times. We again urge those wealthy countries who barely figure in this report to review their ability to join this fight for better health and greater health equity for all."

Dr Mary Moran
Report Author

A further 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. The pharmaceutical industry was collectively the third largest global investor behind the NIH and Gates Foundation, with companies providing one-eighth (US$365m, 12.4%) of global funding for neglected disease R&D, and being highly active in areas like pneumonia, dengue and TB. Over three-quarters (76.4%) of industry investment came from multinational firms, and the remainder from small companies and biotechs. Brazil and India ranked in the top five government funders globally, investing US$36.8m (2%) and US$32.5m (1.7%) respectively, and are taking the lead on diseases like leprosy and dengue fever.

These trends reflect the growing research strength and pharmaceutical markets of IDCs, as well as high local incidence of some neglected diseases. The downside is that diseases of Africa continue to rely on donors, who still provide more than 85% of funds for Buruli ulcer, trachoma, kinetoplastid diseases like sleeping sickness and many helminth infections.

"In these tough economic times, every contribution to neglected disease R&D is absolutely critical, we applaud the leadership role that governments are playing by supporting R&D for diseases endemic in their own countries, as well as the sustained investments from the private sector."

Dr. Regina Rabinovich, Director
Infectious Disease Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

As in 2007, three diseases captured the lion’s share of funding, together accounting for nearly three-quarters (72.8%) of global investment: HIV/AIDS (US$1,164.9m, 39.4%), malaria (US$541.7m, 18.3%) and tuberculosis (US$445.9m, 15.1%). Leprosy, rheumatic fever, trachoma and Buruli ulcer received less than US$10m each (<0.4% of global funding). The kinetoplastid diseases (like Chagas, leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness) received just 4.7% of global funding (US$139.2m); the diarrhoeal illnesses only 4.5% (US$132.2m); and helminth infections (parasitic worms and flukes like hook worm, tape worm and lymphatic filariasis) received 2.3% (US$66.8m).

The Gates Foundation provided funding for five annual G-FINDER surveys from 2008 to 2012. This report is the second annual survey. It covers pharmaceutical products for 31 neglected diseases of the developing world, providing this data as consistently and comprehensively as possible to help funders better understand where the gaps lie and how their investments fit into the global picture. G-FINDER researchers surveyed 208 organisations in 44 countries.

"Already with its second edition the G-FINDER report has established itself as a key resource for all those interested in R&D for neglected diseases. Not only does it accurately reflect all the entities contributing resources to neglected diseases R&D thereby correcting misconceptions, but it can also be used as a valuable guide to find appropriate partners for collaborations in fields of common interest. We hope this initiative will be continued until there are no more neglected diseases."

Professor Paul L Herrling
Head of Corporate Research at Novartis International