Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Money for neglected disease research up by half a billion dollars

A new study looks into funding research on neglected diseases and finds some changing patterns in how the money is given and spent. The amount of money being contributed has increased over the last five years by half a billion dollars. Seventy percent of all the money contributed is made by only a few organizations; including the National Institutes of Health, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The fact that a few groups from the United States make a vast majority of research funding is worrying to the authors of this report.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Carey Biron looks into the research.  
Although overall funding for neglected diseases has gone up by 443.7 million dollars, to about 2.9 billion dollars, since 2007, both public and philanthropic shares have gone down substantially. This is worrisome given that the public sector continues to make up around two-thirds of international funding for such research, almost all from high-income countries, and more than half of the top 20 governments cut their funding for such research in 2011 alone.
While the U.S. government remains the single largest public funder of research into neglected diseases (following only the Gates Foundation), Washington too cut its outlay in 2011, down 2.2 percent to around 30.6 million dollars.
“Some governments now appear to be in it for the long haul, which is great,” Dr. Mary Moran, one of the report’s authors and the executive director of Policy Cures, a London-based research group that published the G-FINDER, said Monday in unveiling the report.
“But we’re worried that their investment model seems to be shifting back to the ‘bad old days’, where the public sector funded basic research leaving product development to industry or philanthropy – and consequently almost no medicines, vaccines or diagnostics for neglected diseases were developed. This model doesn’t and can’t work for truly neglected non-commercial diseases.”
According to findings by Policy Cures, over the past five years, public money for basic research has increased by more than a quarter, to around 124 million dollars, and currently makes up about a third of all public investment in neglected diseases. Meanwhile, public investment in the costly and uncertain product development has actually gone down slightly.
Moran compares this model to putting a man on the moon, for which one needs both scientists to do the research and someone to actually build the physical rocket.
“Governments need to bite the bullet,” she says. “If they want products for neglected diseases, they need to fund product development as well as basic research, and their funding needs to be linked to what’s happening in product pipelines and to be prioritised based on need.”

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