Germany - Global health R&D

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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 ODA.)

Germany was the second-largest donor to global health R&D in 2020

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Germany contributed a total of US$895 million to R&D for EIDS, PRNDs, and SRH in 2020, making it the fourth-largest public donor to R&D in these areas. The majority (93%, or US$829 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for EIDs, only 6% (US$50 million) for NDs, and 1% (US$10 million) for SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area. Germany’s R&D funding increased by 616% between 2019 and 2020, from US$125 million to US$895 million, due to Germany’s efforts in COVID-19 vaccine development.  

A ramp-up of COVID-19-related R&D led to a sharp increase in Germany’s funding for EID R&D

In 2020, Germany spent US$832 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$829 million) and funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$3 million), making Germany the second-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2020. Germany’s funding for EIDs spiked in 2020 and increased more than 13 times compared to 2019 levels (US$61 million). 98% of Germany’s EID R&D funding in 2020 was channeled to COVID-19-related R&D. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany’s R&D funding for EIDs tended to increase - by 221% (+US$42 million) between 2016 and 2019. It is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and these fluctuations do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization of the sector; however, consistent funding for EID R&D (e.g., funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; CEPI) is essential to ensure preparedness in advance of EID outbreaks and rapid responses — in terms of both research and containment — to emerging disease threats. In 2020, Germany provided US$268 million (32% of EIB R&D funding) for CEPI.

Germany has stepped up R&D for international COVID-19 response, committing US$1.1 billion between March and December of 2020

According to Policy Cures Research’s COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and December 2020 (latest data available), Germany announced funding commitments totaling US$1.1 billion for COVID-19 R&D. US$997 million of this will go toward vaccines, US$11 million toward diagnostics, and US$2 million toward therapeutics. The remaining US$75 million was committed for unspecified purposes.

Among its commitments, Germany provided US$841 million for a national vaccine research program aimed at strengthening research on vaccines and expanding production capacities in Germany.  Germany also contributed US$11 million to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and pledged US$157 million to CEPI in March 2020. CEPI (along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) oversees the vaccine pillar of ACT-A while FIND (in collaboration with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) oversees diagnostics. ACT-A is a framework for collaboration through which donor countries can commit funds toward R&D for COVID-19; however not all ACT-A funding is for R&D, since it also has strong health systems strengthening and vaccine distribution components. For additional information on the broader ACT-A global health response to COVID-19, see Sector: ‘Global Health’.

Germany’s funding to R&D for PRNDs decreased by 34% in 2020

In 2020, Germany invested US$55 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDs (US$52 million), and areas of overlap with SRH and EIDs (US$3 million). This makes Germany the fifth-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2020 even after a decrease of 34% compared to 2019.

Most of Germany’s funding for PRNDs in 2020 took the form of drugs (39%), followed by core funding and other R&D (27%), and basic research (24%). 42% of spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed toward tuberculosis (TB), 12% toward multiple kinetoplastid diseases, 15% to malaria, and 5% of the R&D funding for PRNDs was channeled to HIV/AIDS.

Germany’s Federal Government’s Strategy on Global Health (published in October 2020) highlighted the fight against PRNDs as one of Germany’s priority areas in the global health sector, including the support of product-oriented research and development to combat PRNDs. Germany puts a special focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis and has been a strong supporter of the Global Fund. Germany has pledged €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion according to the Global Fund currency conversion) for the Global Fund’s 2020-2022 strategic period.

Germany’s funding for SRH R&D in 2020 fell by 66% compared to 2019

In 2020, Germany spent US$13 million on R&D for SRH, making Germany the fourth-largest donor to this sector. The largest share of this funding (40% or US$5 million) was channeled to R&D for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Germany allocated US$5 million for human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer (37% of total SRH R&D funding). 47% of SRH R&D funding went toward drugs, 37% was used for vaccines, and 3% and 2% respectively was disbursed for each, diagnostics and biologics.

Within the field of SRH, Germany focuses on family planning (FP) and maternal and newborn health. In 2011, the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) initiated the ‘BMZ Initiative on Rights-Based Family Planning and Maternal Health’, which primarily focuses on measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies and promote safe pregnancies and births. Germany also supports multilateral organizations focused on FP, among them the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Global Financing Facility (GFF).

Global health R&D is expected to remain a priority in the coming years

Health R&D, NTDs, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are highlighted as priorities in Germany’s 2021-2025 government coalition treaty. Germany’s Federal Global Health strategy (published in October 2020) also defines strengthening global health R&D as one of five key strategic areas for the next 10 years.

Global health R&D was also a topic of interest during Germany’s previous G7 and G20 presidencies, with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) highlighted as a priority in the final communiqués of both summits. As an immediate outcome of the G20 summit in 2017, a G20 AMR R&D Collaboration Hub was launched in Berlin.  Against the background of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Germany made Global Health R&D a key topic in its G7 Presidency in 2022. Research on AMR and on strengthening pandemic preparedness are among Germany’s key priorities.

In February 2021, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG), and the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF), in coordination with the Federal Chancellery, established a new State Secretaries’ Committee and a Vaccine Production Task Force. The Task Force helped to boost investment in vaccine production in Germany and to build up reserve capacity for the next pandemic so Germany can become a global supplier.

Investments by Germany in global health R&D are rising, especially given Germany’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. According to the government coalition treaty, Germany aims to become an international leading hub for biotechnology. To support this goal, government expenditure on research and development (R&D) is set to rise to 3.5% from 3.2% of Germany’s GDP by 2025. As of June 2022, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided a total of US$484 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in the context of ACT-A. In addition, the BMBF channeled €1.7 million (US$1.9 million) to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Solidarity Trial’ for 2020-2021 to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. In 2020, the BMBF established a national vaccine research program amounting to €750 million (US$855 million), aimed at strengthening research on vaccines and expanding production capacities. The BMBF partnered with three pharmaceutical companies - BioNTech, CureVac, and IDT Biologika – to expand this vaccine-related research.

In 2022, the BMBF allocates €476 million (US$542 million) to health research, health economy, and global health, including funding for Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), according to the BMBF’s 2022 budget. PDPs are international, non-profit organizations making vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics for PRNDs available at affordable costs. Under the current PDP call (2016-2022), the BMBF will contribute up to €50 million (US$57 million), doubling their contributions made between 2011 and 2015 (see box). The BMBF’s funding for CEPI is provided through its budget line ‘New methods in life sciences, biotechnology, drug research’, which stands at €312 million (US$356 million) in 2022.


BMBF-funded PDPs 2016-2022

  • International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) for the development of safe microbicides for women in HIV prevention
  • Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND)
  • PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (PATH MVI) for the development of malaria vaccines
  • Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) for more effective and affordable drugs for TB
  • Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) for drug development against African trypanosomiasis, Visceral Leishmaniosis, Chagas disease, and worm infections
  • Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) for the development of new malaria drugs

BMBF also supports the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) with up to €40 million (US$46 million) for 2003-2024. EDCTP focuses on funding clinical research (with a focus on phase II and III clinical trials) to accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines, microbicides, and diagnostics for poverty-related infectious diseases in ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (meaning Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, according to the African Union’s designations), including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria

Three actors provide funding for global health R&D

Political responsibility for global health R&D lies with the BMBF. In 2020, the BMBF disbursed US$857 million in funding for global health R&D (96% of Germany’s overall R&D disbursements for EIDs, PRNDs, and SRH). Division 615, ‘Global and Public Health Research; Environment and Health’, generates the strategies for global health R&D. Division 615 is part of the Directorate-General 6, ‘Life Sciences’.

The BMBF has defined four priority areas within its global health R&D: 1) PRND R&D, including supporting research networks for health innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2) Infectiology and zoonotic diseases, 3) Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) R&D, and 4) One Health. For its engagement with the African continent, BMBF has its own dedicated ‘Africa Strategy’, which was reissued at the beginning of 2019, focusing on innovation, training, and qualification.

With US$26 million in 2020, the BMG is the second-largest provider of global health R&D funding in Germany (3% in 2020). According to BMG’s strategic framework for health R&D published in 2019, global health represents one of six action fields of the BMG’s departmental research, with a special focus on infectious diseases, epidemic prevention, non-communicable diseases, and international global health R&D cooperation

In 2020, the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts is the third-largest provider, contributing US$6 million (1%) of Germany’s funding for global health R&D, in particular for COVID-19-related R&D. Further, government-funded research institutions play a significant role in Germany’s global health R&D landscape. The German Research Foundation (DFG) — an association of public research organizations — is the fourth-largest funder, providing 1% (US$5 million) of Germany’s funding for global health R&D in 2020. The DFG receives funding from the federal government and federal states. The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, the Robert Koch Institute, and the Max Planck Society are key R&D research institutions. In April 2022, the Helmholz Center for Infection Research inaugurated a new Helmholz Institute for One Health (HIOH) which focus its research on zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and pathogen evolution.