Japan - Global health R&D

This section focuses on global health research and development (R&D) that addresses the global health challenges disproportionately affecting the world's most disadvantaged people. Following the scope of Policy Cures Research, it focuses on 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, it also takes a closer look at donor contributions for COVID-19 R&D within the framework of Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). Although 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. (For more on what is and is not included, by disease, read G-Finder's scope document.)

Japan's funding for Global Health R&D remained stable in 2019 after several years of strong increases

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, Japan provided US$58 million to R&D EIDs, PRNDs, and SRH in 2019, making it the seventh-largest public funder of global health R&D in 2019. It provided US$33 million (56% of total R&D funding) for PRNDs, US$25 million (43%) for EIDs, and US$298,000 (1%) for SRH. Any remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area.


Japan's contributions to R&D for EIDs was relatively static in 2019

Japan contributed US$25 million to R&D for EIDs in 2019, making it the seventh-largest donor to R&D for EIDs in 2019. Japan's funding for EIDs decreased marginally in 2019 (by 5%) but remained relatively close to amounts from 2017 (US$26 million) and 2018 (US$27 million). It is worth noting that it is common to see spikes and dips in EID funding as donors respond to outbreaks, and these do not necessarily indicate a significant re/de-prioritization in 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.

Nearly all of Japan's EID R&D funding in 2019 was directed to multi-disease vector control (99%). Most of this funding is categorized as supporting multiple products (e.g., diagnostics and vaccines) or is otherwise unspecified.
Japan emphasizes combatting infectious diseases in its guiding policy for global health, the 'Basic Design for Peace and Health', primarily through health systems strengthening and capacity building for outbreak response in partner countries. In 2016 Japan released its 'Action Plan for Strengthening Measures on Emerging Infectious Diseases' which guides investments in EIDs and includes a more concrete focus on R&D for EIDs. The plan focuses on strengthening international systems through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), and on strengthening domestic resources and research institutes dealing with infectious diseases.

Japan has contributed US$18 million to COVID-19 R&D as of October 2020

According to Policy Cures Research's COVID-19 R&D tracker, Japan has announced funding commitments totaling US$18 million for COVID-19 R&D between the start of the pandemic and October of 2020 (latest data available). US$11 million of this will support diagnostics, US$4 million will support therapeutics, and US$2 million will support vaccines.

In addition to these commitments, Japan pledged US$300 million to CEPI's five-year pandemic preparedness plan in February of 2022. CEPI (along with Gavi) is convening the vaccine pillar of ACT-A, an internationally organized, end-to-end solution to the COVID-19 pandemic and 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. (Please refer to the Global Health sector for additional information on the broader ACT-A global health response to COVID-19.)

Japan’s funding for R&D for PRNDs remained mostly stable between 2018 and 2019

In 2019, Japan invested US$33 million in R&D for PRNDs. This makes Japan the seventh-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2019. In 2019, funding for PRNDs decreased by 1% compared to 2018, although still nearly double the amount of funding in 2017.

Nearly all of Japan's funding for PRNDs is categorized as R&D for more than one disease (96% in 2019), in addition to a smaller amount for malaria (2%). Most of Japan's funding for PRNDs (96%) is categorized as supporting multiple products (e.g., diagnostics and vaccines) or is otherwise unspecified.

Japan identifies support for R&D for neglected tropical diseases and other diseases which would be categorized as PRNDs as a key tactic within its health strategy, the 'Basic Design for Peace and Health'. The strategy emphasizes leveraging Japanese expertise and technology from the Japanese public and private health sectors to support R&D. Much of Japan's support for R&D for PRNDs is channeled through the Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund, an intermediary launched in 2013 by the Japanese government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and pharmaceutical companies that finances and manages a portfolio of product development partnerships between the public, private, and civil society sectors. To date, 46% of the portfolio (US$122 million) has been dedicated to neglected tropical diseases, 43% (US$116 million) to malaria-related projects, and 11% (US$30 million) to tuberculosis research.

Japan's funding for SRH R&D is low but growing

In 2019, Japan invested US$370,000 in R&D for SRH, including US$72,000 for R&D for more than one disease which counts also as funding for PRNDs and EIDs. This makes Japan the 17th-largest public supporter of SRH R&D in 2019. Although Japan's overall funding for SRH R&D remained relatively low in 2019 compared to other donors, it was a 185% increase from 2018 (US$130,000).

Most of Japan's 2019 funding for SRH (74%) was directed towards R&D for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Other support was channeled to R&D for more than one disease (19%) and human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer (7%). Most of this funding supports basic research (69%), in addition to vaccines (12%), diagnostics (10%), and biologics (9%).

Japan makes some mention of SRH in its 'Basic Design for Peace and Health', namely an intention to engage in dialogue and support for infectious disease prevention with UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Japan's development policies prioritize infectious disease control and partner country R&D capacity building

Japan's investments in global health R&D are guided by its framework policy document, the 'Development Cooperation Charter', which highlights universal health coverage (UHC) and infectious disease control as key priorities. Japan's strategy for responding to the COVID-19 crisis and preparing for future health crises, 'Leave No One's Health Behind', emphasizes accelerating R&D for COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics as well as strengthening research and testing capacity within partner countries.


Key recipients include the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and CEPI, with funds coming from MHLW and MOFA

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) are the most relevant actors for global health R&D policymaking. AMED consolidates budgets from different ministries and unifies the process for allocation of research funding. Within the GHIT Fund, the Selection Committee evaluates investment proposals and reports from the project partners and makes funding recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors approves the funding recommendations.