The EU is the 3rd-largest public provider of global health R&D funding

In 2016, the European Union was the third-largest public funder (4% of total in 2016) of global health research and development (R&D) focused on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and HIV/AIDS (referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this section). Funding in 2016 for global health R&D dropped considerably from US$126 million in 2015 to US$77 million in 2016, according to G-FINDER data. This decrease of 39%, or US$49 million, is largely due to uneven disbursements by the European Commission (Commission) to the EU’s main funding instrument in this area, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP). While in 2015 the EU disbursed US$40 million to the EDCTP, in 2016 it only provided US$8 million. Funding to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) also decreased significantly, from US$23 million in 2015 to US$1.6 million in 2016. It is expected that funding to global health R&D will again increase in the coming years, given the EU’s strong support for the area since many years.

Half of the EU’s global health R&D funding in 2016 went to academic and research institutions (US$38 million). Approximately 17% (US$13 million) went to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and 10% (US$8 million) went to the EDCTP. Diseases that were most funded included tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and kinetoplastids, which together received 60% of the EU’s funds to global health R&D in 2016.  

The Commission reported US$409 million in commitment to global health R&D for 2014 to 2015. This figure refers to commitments rather than actual disbursements, which may be distributed across several years. Commitments focused on tuberculosis (34%), Ebola (29%), and HIV/AIDS (21%) include a range of activities that go beyond laboratory R&D and development of new medical tools, such as building capacities in different regions to conduct research, as was the case during the response to the Ebola epidemic. It is worth noting that the Commission takes a broad approach to account for global health R&D funding, while G-FINDER data strictly focuses on actual expenditure for product development R&D only. Given the Commission and G-FINDER’s contrasting approaches, G-FINDER’s figure for EU investments into global health R&D is much smaller.

The Commission’s DG Research and Innovation has three main programs for global health R&D 

The Directorate-General for Research and Innovation defines and implements the European Research and Innovation policy, which includes global health R&D. The EU funds research and innovation through so-called framework programs that cover six years. ‘Horizon 2020’, the EU’s eighth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, was launched in 2014. It has a total budget of €79.3 billion for the period 2014-2020 and focuses on three key areas: Societal Challenges (39% of the total budget), Excellent Science (32%), and Industrial Leadership (22%). Societal Challenges includes ‘Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing’, which represents 10% (€8 billion) of Horizon 2020’s total funding. It is estimated that approximately US$101 million will be spent on R&D for PRNDs. The exact share for global health R&D is not known yet since the Work Programme 2018-2020, which outlines funding opportunities for that period, is currently being developed. 

The Commission contributes to global health R&D through three main funding mechanisms, all of them funded through the ‘Societal Challenge’ section of Horizon 2020: the Work Programmes implemented directly by the Commission, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnerships 2 (ECDTP 2), and the Innovative Medicines Initiatives 2 (IMI 2).

  • The main goal of Horizon 2020’s ‘Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing’ Societal Challenge is to improve health within Europe, as well as tackling diseases that impose a high global burden. In 2016 to 2017, the relevant Work Programme provided €996 million, dropping from €1.2 billion for 2014 to 2015, according to the Commission. Global health R&D is not a major priority of the current Work Programmes. Since 2015, however, the Commission has funded two projects for the development of vaccines against TB, investing €58 million in 2015 and 2016 and issuing tenders for research projects on HIV/AIDS, malaria, and/or other neglected infectious diseases (2014-2016), as well as urgent research needs for the Zika virus (2016). Lastly, the Commission published a call to improve the control of infectious epidemics and foodborne outbreaks through rapid identification of pathogens (2014).
  • EDCTP’s objective is to accelerate the development of health technologies for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRND) in sub-Saharan Africa. EDCTP 2 is in its second business cycle, which runs from 2014 to 2020, and has a budget of approximately €1.4 billion. The EU will provide €683 million from the EU general budget, provided this is matched by contributions from European Participating States, in cash or in kind. In general, this means that donor governments can report existing investments in national research as in-kind contributions to EDCTP 2. According to data provided by the Commission, €85 million was disbursed from 2014 to 2015 through EDCTP 2 on a range of activities, such as the clinical validation of diagnostics tools and research capacity development during the Ebola crisis. Alongside TB, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, neglected tropical diseases are now also eligible for R&D funding.
  • IMI is a ‘joint undertaking’ between the EU and the European pharmaceutical industry that is represented by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Under IMI 2 (2014-2020), the Commission provides half of the IMI budget, providing €1.6 billion from the Societal Challenge section of Horizon 2020. €1.4 billion is provided as in-kind contributions by EFPIA companies. An additional €213 million is provided as in-kind contributions by other life-science industries or organizations that are not part of EFPIA. €114 million was invested into global health R&D through IMI 2 between 2014 and 2015, according to the Commission, mostly allocated for research on Ebola, including vaccine clinical trials.