Germany - 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 ODA.)

Germany was the fourth-largest donor to global health R&D in 2019

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Germany contributed a total of US$100 million to R&D EIDS, PRNDs, and SRH in 2019, making it the fourth-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. The majority (52% or US$52 million) of this funding was spent on R&D for PRNDs only with 35% (US$35 million) for EIDs and 6% (US$6 million) for SRH. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area. Germany’s R&D funding decreased by 10% between 2018 and 2019, from US$111 million to US$100 million.  

Germany spent US$38 million on R&D for EIDs in 2019

In 2019, Germany spent US$38 million on R&D for EIDs, including funding exclusively for EID R&D (US$35 million) and funding for R&D relevant to both EIDs and PRNDs (US$3 million). This makes Germany the sixth-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2019. Germany’s funding for EIDs for 2019 is on par with 2018 levels. However, since 2015, Germany’s R&D funding for EIDs has increased by 1727% (+US$36 million), with the strongest growth between 2015 and 2016 (+795%; +US$16 million) and between 2016 and 2017 (+55%; +US$10 million). It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and 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 Germany’s EID R&D funding in 2019 was disbursed as core funding to institutions (90%), of which 82% went to CEPI. A further 4 % was provided for basic research.  

Germany has stepped up R&D funding to EID through its international COVID-19 response, committing US$1.1 billion 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 (the latest data available), Germany announced funding commitments totaling US$1.1 billion for COVID-19 R&D. US$997 million of this will go towards vaccines, US$11 million toward diagnostics, and US$2 million toward therapeutics. The remaining US$75 million has been 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 of 2020. CEPI (along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance) is convening the vaccine pillar of ACT-A while FIND (in collaboration with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) is working on diagnostics. ACT-A is a framework for collaboration through which donor countries have committed funds toward R&D for COVID-19; however not all ACT-A funding is for R&D, since it also has strong health system strengthening and vaccine distribution components. For additional information on the broader ACT-A global health response to COVID-19, please see Sector: ‘Global Health’.

Germany’s funding to R&D for PRNDs decreased by 13% in 2019

In 2019, Germany invested US$59 million in R&D for PRNDs, including funding for R&D exclusively relevant to PRNDS (US$52 million), and areas of overlap with SRH (US$4 million) and EIDs (US$3 million). This makes Germany the fourth-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2019 even after a decrease of 13% compared to 2018.

Most of Germany’s funding for PRNDs in 2019 took the form of drugs (34%), followed by basic research (27%) and unspecified products (19%). 46% of spending on R&D for PRNDs was directed toward Tuberculosis, 16% toward Helminth infections (worms & flukes), and 13%, and 6% of the R&D funding for PRNDs were channeled to Malaria and HIV/AIDS, respectively.

Germany’s Federal Government’s Strategy on Global Health (published in October of 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 €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) for the Global Fund’s strategic period of 2020-2022.

Germany’s funding for SRH R&D decreased by a third in 2019

In 2019, Germany spent US$10 million on R&D for SRH, making Germany the fifth-largest donor to this sector after a 36% decrease compared to 2018. In 2019, the largest share of this funding (57% or US$5 million) was channeled to R&D for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  Germany also made disbursements of US$3 million  for R&D for HIV/AIDS (35% of total SRH R&D funding; portions of this funding are also counted as PRND funding). Germany allocated US$600,000 for human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer (6% of total SRH R&D funding). 51% of SRH R&D funding went towards drugs, 34% was disbursed for unspecified products, and 12% was used for diagnostics.

Within the field of SRH, Germany focuses on family planning and maternal and newborn health. According to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), between 2011 and 2018, the BMZ channeled more than €840 million (US$940 million) to partner countries through its own ‘BMZ Initiative on Rights-Based Family Planning and Maternal Health’, primarily for measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to promote safe pregnancies and births. Germany also supports multilateral organizations focused on family planning, among them the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The fight against HIV/AIDS is among Germany’s development priorities in the field of global health.

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

Health R&D and NTDs are highlighted as priorities in Germany’s 2021-2025 government coalition treaty. Germany’s Federal Global Health strategy (published in October of 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, 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 of 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 aim of Task Force is to help boost investment in vaccine production in Germany and to build up reserve capacity for the next pandemic so Germany can become a global supplier. This is in line with Minister of Health Jens Spahn’s endeavor to elevate Germany’s position in the EU as a research and production location for innovative technologies such as mRNA technology.

Investments by Germany in global health R&D are rising, especially given Germany’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Further, according to the government coalition treaty, Germany is to be turned into an international leading hub for biotechnology. In support of this, government expenditure on research and development (R&D) is set to rise to 3.5% from 3.2% of GDP by 2025. As of May of 2021, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has provided a total of US$406 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in the context of ACT-A. In addition, the BMBF channeled €1.5 million (US$1.7 million) to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Solidarity Trial’ in 2020 to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19. In 2020, the BMBF established a national vaccine research program amounting to €750 million (US$840 million), aimed at strengthening research on vaccines and at expanding production capacities. To this end, the BMBF partnered with the three pharmaceutical companies BioNTech, CureVac, and IDT Biologika.

In 2021, the BMBF allocated €940 million (US$1.1 billion) to the field of health research and health economy. Of this amount, €110 million (US$123 million) is set to be channeled towards CEPI and €24 million (US$27 million) towards Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), according to the BMBF’s 2021 budget. PDPs are international, non-profit organizations making vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics for neglected and poverty-related diseases available at affordable costs. Under the current PDP call (2016-2021) the BMBF will contribute up to €50 million (US$56 million), doubling the contributions made between 2011 and 2015 (see box).

BMBF-funded PDPs 2016-2021

  • 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 infection
  • 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$45 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’, 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 2019, the BMBF disbursed US$88 million in funding for global health R&D (88% 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 approach: 1) Strengthen Germany’s national research landscape, 2) Fund PDPs, 3) Support EDCTP, and 4) Strengthen African health research systems and increase research cooperation with countries in sub-Saharan Africa. For its engagement with Africa, BMBF has its own dedicated Africa Strategy, which was reissued at the end of 2018, focusing on innovation, training, and qualification.

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 second-largest funder, providing 7% (US$7 million) of Germany’s funding for global health R&D in 2019. 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.

With US$5 million in 2019, the BMG is the third-largest provider of global health R&D funding in Germany (5% in 2019). 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.