UK Global Health Research and Development

How is the UK’s global health R&D funding changing?

In 2022, the UK spent US$256 million on global health R&D.

Global health R&D spending in the UK saw a notable surge in 2020 due to a substantial rise in COVID-related allocations. However, this has not remained the case, as evidenced by a 53% decrease in COVID-19-related spending between 2020 and 2022. Non-COVID-19 expenditure declined by 49% during the same period. These reductions can likely be attributed to budgetary constraints that were imposed on ODA in 2021, which are expected to persist in the medium term.

How does the UK allocate global health R&D?

Disease priorities

More than one third of UK global health R&D funding is allocated to address multiple diseases, reflecting the substantial portion of R&D funding directed towards PDPs with a multi-disease focus.

In addition to its significant focus on NDs, the UK demonstrates a particular commitment to combating AMR through the dedicated strategy and funding provided by the Fleming Fund. This fund is primarily oriented towards operational support to support the implementation of programs, including those focused on drug stewardship.

Other priority areas include EIDs and vaccine development for EIDs, particularly through the UK Vaccine Network, as well as One Health (zoonotics) and climate and health related issues.

Recipient types

The substantial allocation of funding through ODA and to PDPs in the UK sets it apart from other donors. All UK global health R&D comes from the UK’s FCDO ODA budget, and therefore reductions in the ODA budget have directly impacted the share of funding allocated to PDPs.

In 2022, prominent PDP recipients of UK global health R&D included the TB Alliance, MMV, FIND, and the DNDi.

Several major PDPs have experienced major declines in funding in recent years. Between 2021 and 2022, funding to FIND significantly decreased, partly reflective of decreases in COVID-19 funding. EDCTP funding fell by 87% as a result of the UK leaving the EU and is expected to cease completely in 2026. Funding to CEPI has been on a downward trajectory since 2018, reflecting both ODA budget cuts and the UK’s preference for funding UK institutions, including the UK Vaccines Network.

R&D stages

The largest share of UK global health R&D funding goes to cross-cutting or unspecified R&D stages. Malaria and joint ND - EIDs projects received the largest shares of this cross-cutting or unspecified funding. Malaria and tuberculosis received the largest shares of clinical and field-development stage funding, followed by bacterial pneumonia, meningitis, and STDs.

Funding to each R&D stage has been relatively stable between 2018 and 2022, although the proportion of funding going to cross-cutting or unspecified stages fell slightly between 2018 and 2022. The disease areas which make up this reduction are R&D for more than one ND, tuberculosis and kinetoplastid diseases, which have each seen reductions in cross-cutting or unspecified R&D since 2018.

Funding and Policy Outlook

What is the current government’s outlook on public global health R&D?

The UK government has historically had a strong commitment to global health. However, the reduction in the UK’s ODA commitment from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI in 2021 has led to cuts in funding across various development sectors, including global health R&D.

ODA/GNI is expected to remain at 0.5% until fiscal tests set by the government are met, which is not anticipated to be before FY2027/28. This is expected to be the case even if a new government comes into power, indicating that global health R&D funding is likely to remain constrained in the UK in the medium term.

Key Stakeholders and Budgets

Key stakeholders involved in public UK global health R&D funding include both Labour and Conservative leadership, parliamentary MPs and those involved in relevant committees, including the Science and Technology, Foreign Affairs and International Development committee.

Other stakeholders include the senior leadership and technical staff in relevant agencies including the FCDO, MRC, DHSC, NIHR (including Chief Scientists), health and life sciences industry bodies and key companies, as well as academia, universities and research institutions, and relevant NGOs and think tanks.

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