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 fifth-largest donor to global health R&D in 2019

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, France contributed US$94 million in total to R&D for EIDS, PRNDs, and SRH in 2019, making it the fifth-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. 52% of this funding (US$49 million) was spent on R&D for EIDs only. 21% (US$19 million) was spent on R&D for PRNDs, and <1% (US$332 thousand) on SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area.

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France spent US$49 million on R&D for EIDs in 2019

In 2019, France spent US$50 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$49 million) and funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$665 thousand). This makes France the fifth-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2019.

France’s funding for EIDs increased significantly in 2018 (US$48 million) compared to 2017 (US$7 million). It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks and that these 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 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.

Most of France’s EID R&D funding in 2019 went to R&D for more than one disease (89% of EID funding).

France has stepped up R&D funding to EIDs through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$119 million between March and October of 2020 

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and October of 2020 (latest data available), France announced funding commitments totaling US$119 million for COVID-19 R&D. US$39 million of this was channeled towards therapeutics, US$17 million towards vaccines, and US$3 million toward basic research. The remaining US$59 million has been committed for unspecified purposes.

France’s funding for PRNDs slightly increased in 2019 but remains below peak 2013 levels

In 2019, France invested US$45 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$19 million) and areas of overlap with SRH (US$25 million) and EID (US$665 thousand). This makes France the fifth-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2019. In 2019, funding levels saw an increase of 8% compared to 2018 but funding remains far below a peak of US$77 million in 2013.

Most of France’s funding for PRNDs in 2019 went toward drugs (29%), followed by basic research (23%). Two-thirds of the spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed toward HIV/AIDs (46% of PRND funding in 2019), malaria (13%), and tuberculosis (11%).

In 2019, France spent US$25 million on R&D for SRH

In 2019, France spent just over US$25 million on R&D for SRH, including US$20 million on HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). This makes France the third-largest donor to this sector in 2019. 2019 saw a 47% increase in France’s funding for SRH R&D compared to 2018.

In addition to HIV/AIDS (82% 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 6% went to basic research. 39% was disbursed for unspecified products.

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 (88% in 2019): the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM; 69% or US$65 million) and the French National Research Agency (ANR; 19% or US$18 million):

  • INSERM is a public institution where research mainly focuses on HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, bacterial pneumonia, and meningitis. With an annual budget of €913 million (US$1.1 billion), INSERM draws most of its resources from the Ministry of Education (69% of its budget, €630 million, or US$705 million in 2019). 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 include: the Institut Pasteur and REACTing.

In March of 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.

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.