Global funding for neglected-disease research and development reached US$3.2 billion (inflation-adjusted, reported in 2007 US dollars) in 2012, with a 3.2% or US$92.1 million increase in investment from repeat participants in the annual G-FINDER survey.

This is a positive signal given that global funding for neglected-disease R&D has been declining since 2009, notes the sixth edition of the G-FINDER survey funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by independent research group Policy Cures.

However, the impact was dampened by a 12.4% (US$52.6 million) decline in government funds outside the US, with 11 governments either cutting or freezing investment,

A year-on-year increase of 6.4% (US$86.3 million) in US public funding masked the lower investment from governments in other high-income countries during 2012.

Since the global financial crisis, the total contribution from the 11 governments that cut or froze funding last year has fallen by 20% or US$90.6 million.

“Given that the public sector continues to play a key role in neglected disease R&D, providing almost two-thirds of global funding, this is deeply worrying,” commented report author Dr Mary Moran, executive director of Policy Cures.  

Product-development lag

In the five years leading up to 2011, there was a 28% increase in public-sector funding for basic research into neglected diseases.

Yet funding for product development – a key concern identified in last year’s G-FINDER survey – shrank by 1% over the same period, Policy Cures pointed out.

The 2012 survey found “no correction of this trend”, it added. “For diseases that are well funded, or which have a balance in funding sectors contributing to R&D investment, this may be less of an issue. However, for poorly funded diseases that mainly rely on public funding, the result is a skewing of investment away from product development.”

Less for PDPs

Funding for product development partnerships (PDPs) continued to decrease in 2012, the survey showed.

Investment in this area has now dropped by nearly a third (-27%, US$128.9 million) since 2009, Policy Cures said.

“PDPs have traditionally been supported by funding from philanthropic organisations and government aid agencies,” Moran observed.

“However, most of this funding has been decreasing for several years now. Many product development projects for neglected diseases rely on the key role PDPs play.”

More encouragingly, Policy Cures has seen increased funding for innovative financing mechanisms like the Global Health Investment Fund or for other intermediaries such as the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership – mechanisms “that may channel funding to PDPs, or might target the pharmaceutical industry directly”.

Funding to non-PDP intermediary organisations has been growing since 2010, with a 22.5% or US$16.4 million year-on-year increase in 2012.