Report Urges Strategic Planning For MDG Diseases

Global funding for neglected diseases, including some targeted in the Millennium Development Goals, rose to $3.2 billion in 2009 and funds were better distributed between diseases, according to the third G-FINDER report. The funding rise of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars between 2008 and 2009 came alongside a $50 million drop in funding for non-profit organisations that coordinate product development partnerships for neglected diseases.

The report examined global funding for 31 neglected diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases and dengue, and 134 product areas including drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, microbicides and vector control products. Funding for HIV, TB and malaria was maintained or increased, but their piece of the funding pie dropped from 77% in 2007 to 72% in 2009. Diarrhoeal diseases, dengue and kinetoplastid infections increased their share to above 5%, but diseases like leprosy, trachoma and rheumatic fever maintained small shares of global research and development investment.

“More funding is vital and encouraging to see” commented report author Mary Moran, Director of Policy Cures, “but it’s just as important that the funds are spent wisely and well.” Calling into question the big funding dollars for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Moran described there were “random drivers to the spread of funding [that were] almost never driven by analysis of what’s needed.” Widely available and comprehensive cost benefit analyses for neglected disease reductions have been limited, and there are currently no systems to help funders decide which investments are likely to generate the highest health returns. But Joe Cerrell, Director of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s European Office, argued that for defining global health priorities, there was “more than randomness; a lot of analysis and more method to the madness.” The predominance of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as leading global health priorities over the last 2 decades has come about, considered Moran, as a result of “a lot of not very carefully thought out strategies.”

US organisations provided close to 70% of all global funding for neglected disease research and development in 2009; the G-FINDER report draws attention to the National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as funding leaders. The UK was the second largest donor country, providing 7% the majority of its global funding from the Department for International Development, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council. The current report was able to provide no information on funding from China, which has a long history of dealing with neglected diseases and is fast becoming the world’s second largest economy.

“The pie has gotten bigger” added Moran, but there has been a “move away from making products and back to basic research.” For David Reddy, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture, the report’s findings highlighted funding reductions of 9% to non-profits like MMV, and cause concern. “We help to ensure the money is focused on the area which will deliver the most benefits” argued Reddy, “now is not the time to stop funding.”

With increasing pressure on global financial resources, and a move towards more conservative funding strategies, non-profits which co-ordinate neglected disease product development, and neglected diseases alike, must plan to prove their value for money more strategically than ever.

Onome was awarded a BSc in cell & molecular biology from the University of St Andrews, Scotland and a PhD from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Onome’s PhD research focu ...read more

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