Funding to global health R&D has been low but is a new focus area of Italy’s health cooperation

Italy’s support to research and development (R&D) on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs) – referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile - has been very low so far and in 2015 saw no funding. A peak of US$7 million in 2012 is due to funding to the Italian National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI; US$6.7 million or 97% of global health R&D funding in 2012), entirely provided for by the Ministry of Health. The INMI focused its research primarily on HIV/AIDS (39% of its funding in 2012) and on tuberculosis (17%). The remainder (44%) was not allocated to a specific disease. The INMI is involved in international initiatives: It is a member of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) since 2003, a network coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ministry of Health is the main funder for global health R&D

The Ministry of Health provided the majority of Italy’s funding allocated to global health R&D between 2012 and 2014 (92%); however, this was entirely due to high funding in 2012: the Ministry did not provide any funding in 2013 and 2014. It, however, retains policy leadership around global health R&D, which is driven by the Ministry’s Directorate-General for health prevention.

Due to the drop in funding from the Ministry of Health, total funding declined sharply in 2013 and 2014. The two funders of global health R&D were the San Raffaele Scientific Research Institute (IRCCS) and the University of Siena. IRCCS spent US$130,000-140,000 per year in 2013 and 2014 for basic research on HIV/AIDS; the University of Siena contributed US$80,000 to research on kinetoplastids .

Despite the currently low funding amounts, global health R&D is expected to figure as a priority of Italian global health policy in the new three-year guidelines for 2016 to 2018. In April 2016, the government set up a new Center for Global Health as part of the Italian National Institute for Health (ISS), led by Stefano Vella. As of September 2016, the Center is still being established. It will focus on R&D for neglected diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, and Zika.