Funding to global health R&D has been low but is a new focus area of Italy’s health cooperation

Italy’s support to research and development (R&D) on poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), referred to as ‘global health R&D’ in this profile, has been very low so far. According to G-FINDER data, based on a survey covering a select group of products in need of R&D, Italy has not reported significant financial contributions to global health R&D since 2012. The Ministry of Health disbursed US$5.6 million in 2012 to the Italian National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI). The INMI focused its research primarily on HIV/AIDS (39% of its funding in 2012) and on tuberculosis (17%). The remainder (44%) was not allocated to a specific disease. The INMI is involved in international initiatives: It is a member of the ‘Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) since 2003, a network coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ministry of Health is the main funder for global health R&D

The Ministry of Health provided the majority of Italy’s funding allocated to global health R&D between 2012 and 2014 (92%); however, this was entirely due to its high funding in 2012. The Ministry has stopped reporting funding since 2012. It, however, retains policy leadership around global health R&D, which is driven by the Ministry’s Directorate-General for health prevention.

Due to the drop in funding from the Ministry of Health, total funding declined sharply after 2012. In 2013 and 2014, funding for global health R&D came from two universities: the San Raffaele Scientific Research Institute (IRCCS) and the University of Siena. IRCCS spent US$130,000-140,000 per year in 2013 and 2014 for basic research on HIV/AIDS; the University of Siena contributed US$80,000 to research on kinetoplastids. No university reported funding for global health R&D in 2015 and 2016.

Despite currently low funding amounts, global health R&D featured in the three-year Programming Guidelines and Directions for Italian Development Cooperation 2016-2018 (they no longer feature in the 2017-2019 guidelines), which indicate Italy’s support for global health research in general and specifically to the ‘European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership’ (EDCTP 2). In April 2016, the government set up a new Center for Global Health as part of the Italian National Institute for Health (ISS), led by Stefano Vella, which focuses on R&D for neglected diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, and Zika. The center is not yet operational.