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Big Killer Diseases Miss Out Despite Funding Boost for Neglected Diseases

The first survey of global public and private investment into research and development for new products for neglected diseases has found that over US$2.5bn was invested in 2007. The lion’s share of funding – almost 80 per cent – went to the development of new products for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. However, many other  significant diseases responsible for killing millions of people in developing countries – including pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases – were underfunded, with most not receiving enough to make even one new product. These are the results of the G-FINDER ‘Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Disease’ 2008 survey by The George Institute for International Health - an organisation headquartered in Australia with offices in India, China and the UK. The George Institute's Health Policy Unit is affiliated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and is based at LIDC's offices in Gordon Square, London. 




The report revealed a high concentration of funders, with two organisations providing 60% of funding and many wealthy governments providing little or no funding at all. Study leader, Dr

Mary Moran

, of The George Institute for International Health and Honorary Senior Lecturer at LSHTM, said: “The good news is that neglected diseases are on the global agenda and the strong advocacy work of AIDS, TB and malaria activists have shown results.  The bad news is that some of the biggest killers like diarrhoeal illnesses and rheumatic fever have few advocates and get less than five per cent of funding”.

Concentration of funding

The largest donors were the US National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Twelve organisations contributed over 80 per cent of this global total.  About a quarter of donor funding was routed to public-private product development partnerships, such as the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Medicines for Malaria Venture.  Disappointingly, some of the world’s wealthiest governments were missing from the list of top 10, top 20 or even top 50 funders.  Remarkably, the pharmaceutical industry contributed just over nine per cent of global funding, with some companies providing more funding than many OECD governments. Dr Moran said: “In an uncertain economic climate, it’s worrying to see all our eggs in one basket like this – particularly when that basket represents the lives of hundreds of million of people.”

G-FINDER report launch 

The George Institute was commissioned by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct the G-FINDER survey annually for five years - the 2008 report is the first off the line. The launch of the report in February 2009 received wide media attention and has stimulated much debate within the neglected disease community on the funding of neglected disease research.


Dr A E Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at The Wellcome Trust, said: “The G-FINDER report provides a compass by which to navigate the complex world of neglected disease funding.  It should be on the reading list of every funder – and, even more important, every policy advisor to governments that have yet to come forward in support of the cause to reduce the dreadful burden of neglected diseases.”


An abridged summary of the results was published in the February edition of Public Library of Science Medicine - an open access home for all peer-reviewed research.


Further reading