France - Global health R&D

This section focuses on donor countries’ support to global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world’s most disadvantaged people. Following the methodological approach used by Policy Cures Research (read G-Finder’s scope document), it focuses on donor funding and policy in 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, this section also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). This section excludes domestic funding for health R&D that does not benefit low- and middle-income countries. Not all funding mentioned qualifies as official development assistance or ODA.)

France was the ninth-largest donor to global health R&D in 2020

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, France contributed US$132 million in total to R&D for EIDS, PRNDs, and SRH in 2020, making it the ninth-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. 69% of this funding (US$91 million) was spent on R&D for EIDs only. 14% (US$18 million) was spent on R&D for PRNDs, and 1% (US$1.3 million) on SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area.

Download

France spent US$93 million on R&D for EIDs in 2020

In 2020, France spent US$93 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$91 million) and funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$2 million). This makes France the tenth-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2020.

France’s funding for EIDs increased significantly in 2020 compared to 2019 (US$50 million). This is in large part due to additional funding for COVID-19 R&D (42%, or US$39 million). Beyond COVID-19 funding, most of France’s EID R&D funding continues to address more than one disease (52% or US$48 million).

Fluctuations in EID funding are common as donors respond to outbreaks; these do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector. Nevertheless, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; 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.

France has stepped up R&D funding to EIDs through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$120 million between March and October 2020 

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and October 2020 (latest data available), France announced funding commitments totaling US$120 million for COVID-19 R&D. US$39 million of this funding was channeled towards therapeutics, US$17 million toward vaccines, and US$3 million toward basic research. The remaining US$59 million was committed for unspecified purposes.

France’s funding for PRNDs decreased in 2020 compared to 2019 and remains significantly below peak 2013 levels

In 2020, France invested US$40 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$18 million) and areas of overlap with EID (US$2 million) and SRH (US$20 million). This makes France the seventh-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2020. In 2020, funding levels decreased by 13% compared to 2019 (US$45 million) and remains significantly below a peak of US$80­­ million in 2013.

Most of France’s funding for PRNDs in 2020 went toward ‘drugs’ (31%), followed by ‘core research and other R&D’ (30%) and ‘basic research’ (23%). Two-thirds of spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed toward HIV/AIDs (44% of PRND funding in 2020), malaria (14%), and tuberculosis (13%).

In 2020, France spent US$21 million on R&D for SRH

In 2020, France spent US$21 million on R&D for SRH, including US$17 million on HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). This makes France the fourth-largest donor to this sector in 2020. 2020 saw a 19% decrease in France’s funding for SRH R&D compared to 2019.

In addition to HIV/AIDS (84% of SRH R&D funding), France made disbursements to R&D for Hepatitis B (10%). 43% of SRH R&D funding went toward ‘drug research’ and 12% went to ‘basic research.’ 40% was disbursed for core funding and other R&D.

COVID-19 R&D is a key focus of France’s latest development policy

According to G-FINDER data, two institutions carry out or coordinate the bulk of France’s global health R&D funding (72% in 2020): the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM; 50%, or US$66 million) and the French National Research Agency (ANR; 22%, or US$29million):

  • INSERM is a public institution where research mainly focuses on HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, bacterial pneumonia, and meningitis with an annual budget of €967 million (US$1.1 billion) in 2021. The French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) is an autonomous agency within INSERM.
  • The French National Research Agency coordinates and allocates public funding for R&D under the direction of the Ministry of Higher Education; however, it does not carry out any research itself.

Other key players in France’s global health R&D system include: the Institut Pasteur and BPI France.

In March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Macron announced €5 billion (US$5.6 billion) over 10 years for public health research. Of this, €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) will be given to the National Research Agency (ANR). According to the Ministry of Research, French public research resources will reach a total of €20 billion (US$22 billion) by 2030, compared to €15 billion (US$17 billion) in 2019.

In June 2021, French President Emmannuel Macron announced an ambitious “Innovation in Health 2030” agenda, aiming to mobilize €7 billion (US$8 billion) to reinforce France’s capacities in biomedical research in biotherapy, digital health, and infectious and emerging diseases, and make France a European leader on clinical trials. This strategy is monitored by a new Health Innovation Agency.  

Decision-making is fragmented

France’s decision-making landscape for global health R&D is fragmented; the different institutes involved in global health R&D mostly set their own focus areas and research agendas, while the government’s priorities are demonstrated through funding decisions or high-level political declarations.