Canada - Global health R&D

This section focuses on global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world’s most disadvantaged people. Following the scope of Policy Cures Research, it focuses on three main areas: 1) emerging infectious diseases (EIDs); 2) poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs); and 3) sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As part of the EID R&D funding, it also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). Although this section excludes domestic funding for health R&D that does not benefit low- and middle-income countries, not all funding mentioned qualifies as ODA. (For more on what is and is not included, by disease, read G-Finder’s scope document.)

Canada was the 10th-largest donor to global health R&D in 2020

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Canada contributed US$128 million in total to R&D in these three areas in 2020, making it the 10th-largest public donor to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) altogether. The largest share (89%) of this funding was spent on R&D for EIDs only. 9% was spent on R&D for PRNDs, and 1% on SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area.

Canada spent less than US$114 million on R&D for EIDs in 2020

In 2020, Canada spent less than US$114 million on R&D for EIDs. This makes Canada the 9th-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2020.  Almost all of this was funding exclusively for EID R&D. US$300 thousand went toward general diagnostics platforms relevant to R&D for all global health areas.

Canada’s funding for EIDs increased significantly in 2020 compared to 2019 (US$4 million) driven by funding for COVID-19 R&D. It is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector; however, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Response; CEPI) is essential to ensuring preparedness in advance of EID outbreaks and ensuring a rapid response — in terms of both research and containment — to emerging disease threats.

The largest share (97%, or US$110 million) of Canada’s funding for EID R&D in 2020 went to R&D for COVID-19. US$30 million of this went to CEPI. 37% or US$41 million of Canada’s COVID-19 R&D funding was channeled toward vaccine research, while basic research and drugs received 33% and 17% respectively.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, EID R&D was not a specific priority for Canada; however, because of the pandemic, EID R&D has become a research priority for the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Canada's federal funding agency for health research, which is supervised by the Ministry of Health.

Canada’s funding for PRNDs remained steady in 2020

In 2020, Canada invested US$12 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$12 million), some of which overlapped SRH funding (US$200 thousand), and general diagnostic platforms relevant to all other disease areas (US$300 thousand). This makes Canada the 10th-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2020. In 2020, funding to this disease area remained in line with 2019 levels, when it experienced its first drop since 2015.

Most of Canada’s funding for PRNDs in 2020 took the form of basic research (52%). Core funding and other R&D received 32% of funding, while 7% went to drugs. Vaccines received only 4% of funding. Almost half of Canada’s spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed toward HIV/AIDS (47% of PRND R&D funding in 2020). Tuberculosis (22% of PRND R&D funding in 2020) was also a priority for Canada in 2020.

Canada is the eighth-largest funder of R&D for SRH

In 2020, Canada spent more than US$2 million on R&D for SRH, including US$200 thousand on ND/SRH platform technologies (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above) and  US$300 for general diagnostics platforms relevant to R&D for all global health areas. This makes Canada the eighth-largest donor to this sector in 2020. 2020 saw a 70% decrease in Canada’s funding for SRH R&D compared to 2019, as more money was channeled toward COVID-19.

In 2020, Canada made disbursements for R&D for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (43% or US$1 million) and multipurpose prevention technologies (17%). Basic research received more than half of Canada’s R&D funding in 2020 (53%), followed by devices and combinations (14%).

Canada is committed to the issue of women's and girls’ health including SRH and maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH). All of Canada’s funding for HIV/AIDS research comes from the ‘CIHR HIV/AIDS Research Initiative’ under the framework of the ‘Federal Initiative to Address HIV/AIDS in Canada’. One of the four priorities of this initiative is to “Contribute to the global effort to reduce the spread of HIV and mitigate the impact of the disease”. Other key SRH R&D programs are run through Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), including its programs on maternal and child health and better sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for adolescent girls in Senegal.

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

Responsibility for global health R&D policies and funding lies with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and CIHR, as well as the IDRC.

Within CIHR, overall strategic directions are set by the Governing Council. The Science Council of CIHR is a management committee that 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).

Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) is another important player in funding Global Health R&D in Canada. GCC is an independent, not-for-profit organization established in 2009. It receives most of its funding from the Canadian government. GCC funds ideas that integrate science, technology, and social and business innovation, with a “feminist investment approach”. Global health R&D is a theme cutting across the six specific challenges that GCC has chosen to work on: 1) Promoting the work of scientists and innovators; 2) transitioning to scale; 3) saving lives at birth; 4) saving brains; 5) promoting global mental health; and 6) funding the ‘humanitarian grand challenge’, a challenge to fund innovative humanitarian solutions in conflict-generated crises in partnership with the US, UK, and the Netherlands.