February 17, 2011
"A rise in global funding for research into neglected diseases needs to be matched by a continued focus on delivering practical new ways to curb sickness in the developing world," according to the third annual report (.pdf) by the Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Diseases (G-FINDER) released on Wednesday, Reuters reports. "While spending rose 8.2 percent to $3.2 billion in 2009, there was also a 9.0 percent drop in funding for non-profit groups that produce new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools," according to the news service (Kelland, 2/16).
"Basic research funding increased by 21% in 2009" whereas "funding to PDPs [Product Development Partnerships] dropped by US$50m in 2009 (down 8.6% to US$530m)," according to a press release (.pdf) by G-FINDER and Policy Cures, the independent group that conducted the study.
"Funders need to be careful not to take their eye off the ball. More funding is vital, and encouraging to see, but it's just as important that the funds are spent wisely and well," study author Mary Moran, director of Policy Cures, said, according to the press release. "Increased public spending on domestic researchers is an understandable strategy in hard economic times, but only if it also achieves the aim of creating new medicines and vaccines for those in the developing world," she added (2/16).
The G-FINDER survey looks at "public and private funding into R&D for neglected diseases like malaria, TB, HIV, pneumonia, sleeping sickness and helminth infections," the press release continues. "It covers 31 diseases and 134 product areas for these diseases, including drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, microbicides and vector control products. In 2009, 218 organisations completed the survey, covering all major public, private and philanthropic funders. This year, the report has expanded to include ... data from private companies in Brazil and India as well as public funders in Ghana, Colombia and Thailand."
According to the report "year-on-year neglected disease funding rose by 239 million in 2009, with most increase coming from public funders such as the United States National Institutes of Health," Reuters continues. "The pharmaceutical industry's contribution also rose, by $43 million to just over $411 million, or around 13 percent of total 2009 R&D funding for neglected diseases" (2/16).
Nature's "The Great Beyond" blog notes, "Philanthropic organisations picked up 20.5%" of the 2009 R&D funding. "The three big diseases -- HIV, malaria and TB -- still get the lion's share of this funding, 72% in 2009. But this is down from 77% in 2007 with diarrhoea and dengue both picking up more than 5% of funding for the first time," the blog writes (Cressey, 2/16). "[L]eprosy, trachoma, rheumatic fever and Buruli ulcer were at the bottom of the scale, each getting less that 0.3 percent of R&D funds," Reuters adds (2/16).
Reuters reports Jon Pender of GlaxoSmithKline and Joe Cerrell of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation expressed concerns over what they described as a "'worrying trend' away from investment in PDPs, just when they need more money to further a potentially promising pipeline. ... The report said such partnerships currently have around 140 drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools in development, including a malaria vaccine from GSK which is in late-stage trials." According to Reuters, the Gates Foundation funded the report (2/16).