Funding for global health R&D is currently low

Funding by the South Korean government for global health R&D is low: South Korea invested US$561,000 in 2015 for research and development (R&D) on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile. 1 This level of funding makes South Korea one of the lowest-ranking donor countries to global health R&D.

In 2015, the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (MW) provided 79% of the funding for PRNDs, equivalent to US$442,000. The MW channeled all of this money through pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and focused its investment on research on dengue fever.

The second-largest funder of global health R&D in 2015 was the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (U$80,000, 14%; KRIBB). The KRIBB is a government research institute located in Daejeon which is dedicated to biotechnology research across a broad span of expertise including drug discovery.

Another provider of funding is the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) at US$39,000 in 2015. This represents a fairly low proportion of the NRF’s overall spending as its main focus is not on neglected diseases. The NRF was established in 2009 as a merger of the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, Korea Research Foundation, and Korea Foundation for International Cooperation of Science and Technology. The NRF is led by Dr. Moo-Je Cho under the direction of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and is designed to enhance the efficiency of the national basic research support system.

Nearly all of the NRF’s and KRIBB’s financing for global health R&D is allocated to product-development partnerships (PDPs), largely through contributions to the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute (IVI). The IVI is dedicated to research in vaccine development and delivery for developing countries. These investments mainly fund research on malaria and diarrheal diseases. Contrary to spending in former years, South Korea did not spend and money on tuberculosis research in 2015.

South Korea’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) takes on the lead role for disease control in South Korea. Within the CDC, the Risk Assessment and International Cooperation Division under the Emergency Operations Bureau manages operations in developing countries.