Canada’s funding focuses mainly on HIV/AIDS research programs

According to G-FINDER data, Canada’s funding for research and development (R&D) on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile, stood at US$6.8 million in 2016. Global health R&D funding jumped markedly in 2012 (from US$9.1 million in 2011 to US$17 million in 2012) and peaked in 2013 at US$19 million. Since then, however, there has been a steady decline. The majority of Canada’s financing for global health R&D went to drug development (US$3.5 million) and basic research (US$2.5 million).

In 2016, funding focused primarily on HIV/AIDS (US$6.5 million), representing 96% of total Canadian global health R&D. The share of global health R&D funding to HIV/AIDS is up from 72% from the previous year. Other focus areas included tuberculosis and kinetoplastids.

According to G-FINDER data, two institutions are the primary public funders for global health R&D:

  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR): CIHR were by far the largest funder in 2016, with around US$6.5 million (95% of all global health R&D funding). CIHR is the Canadian government’s agency for health research, supervised by the Ministry of Health. CIHR comprises 13 institutes (see box). Within its support for global health R&D, CIHR provided support to various research and academic institutions in Australia, Canada, and the US in 2016. The main recipient for this funding is the University of British Columbia (US$3.5 million).
  • Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC): PHAC provided about quarter of a million US dollars (US$227,000) in global health R&D funding in 2016 (3% of Canadian global health R&D funding).

The 13 ‘virtual’ institutes of CIHR:

  • Aging
  • Cancer Research
  • Circulatory and Respiratory Health
  • Gender and Health
  • Genetics
  • Health Services and Policy Research
  • Human Development, Child, and Youth Health
  • Indigenous Peoples' Health
  • Infection and Immunity
  • Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis
  • Neurosciences, Mental Health, and Addiction
  • Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes
  • Population and Public Health

GAC and CIHR jointly lead decision-making on global health R&D

Responsibility for global health R&D policies and funding lies with GAC and CIHR, as well as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Within CIHR, overall strategic directions are set forth by the Governing Council. The Science Council of CIHR is a management committee which develops and implements CIHR’s work. Within the three business portfolios—Research, Knowledge Translation and Ethics (RKTE); External Affairs and Business Development (EABD); and Resource Planning and Management (RPM)—RKTE is responsible for the administration of funding programs, including for global health R&D. CIHR is also guided by a Framework for International Relations and Cooperation (2006).

GAC, CIHR, and IDRC collaborate on several initiatives to advance global health research. This includes the Development Innovation Fund – Health (DIF-H). DIF-H is a consortium composed of the CIHR, IDRC, and Grand Challenges Canada (GCC; see details below). It was established by the Canadian government in 2008 with a pledge of CAD225 million to support research relating to critical global health problems. IDRC is in charge of overseeing DIF-H, while GCC is responsible for managing implementation of projects funded through the DIF-H. CIHR supports the DIF-H by peer-reviewing applications in response to grant calls issued by GCC. DIF-H’s three main objectives are to: 1) identify and prioritize health challenges facing developing countries, 2) mobilize scientific communities to address these challenges, and 3) facilitate the implementation and commercialization of solutions in developing countries.

GCC is an independent, not-for-profit organization established in 2009. It receives most of its funding from the Canadian government, including through the DIF-H. GCC funds ideas that integrate science, technology, and social and business innovation. Global health R&D is a theme cutting across the six specific challenges that GCC has chosen to work on: 1) global health, 2) saving lives at birth, 3) saving brains through addressing poverty-related risks, 4) global mental health, 5) hypertension in low- and middle-income countries, and 6) point-of-care diagnostics.  

GAC, CIHR, and IDRC also jointly support the ‘Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa’ program (CAD36 million from 2014 to 2020). The program supports Canadian and African research organizations around R&D on strengthening health systems. Priority areas include: 1) high impact, community-based interventions; 2) quality facility-based interventions; 3) policy environment; and 4) human resources for health.