Netherlands - Global health R&D

The Netherlands was the 11th-largest funder of global health R&D in 2020 

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, the Netherlands contributed US$80 million in total to R&D for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in 2020, making it the eleventh-largest public donor to R&D for these areas. The fourfold increase from US$19 million in 2019 to US$80 million in 2020 was largely driven by additional R&D funding related to the emergence of COVID-19. COVID-19-related funding made up 87% (US$70 million) of total funding for global health R&D. All funding dedicated to EID was invested into R&D on coronavirus diseases. The remaining 13% of the Netherlands’ total R&D funds (US$11 million) were spent on R&D for PRNDs. This includes US$2 million (3% of total funding) spent on R&D for both PRNDs and SRH. This overlapping funding was dedicated to R&D for HIV/AIDS.  

 

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The Netherlands’ funding on R&D for EIDs increased from zero in 2019 to US$70 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic 

While the Netherlands did not provide any funding to R&D for EIDs in 2019, EIDs made up the largest share of R&D funding in 2020. This change is closely related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the exceptional mobilization of funds for research on connected vaccines. The rise in EID funding led to an overall spike in Dutch R&D, with the EID share alone climbing up to US$70 million. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was the largest recipient, receiving US$57 million or 82% of EID funding. Most of the overall funding dedicated to EID R&D (91%, or US$63 million) was dedicated to R&D on vaccines. 6% or US$4 million went to ‘basic research,’ and the remaining 3% into ‘biologics and drugs.’  

It is worth noting that 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, spikes related to COVID-19 were exceptionally high. Also, consistent funding for EID R&D (for example, funding for 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. It remains to be seen whether this will be recognized in the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation’s new ‘Global Health Strategy’ which is scheduled for publication in Autumn 2022.   

The Netherlands’ funding for PRNDs decreased slightly in 2020 

In 2020, the Netherlands invested US$11 million in R&D for PRNDs. This marks an absolute decrease of 15% in R&D spending on PRNDs in 2019, making the Netherlands the eleventh-largest public supporter of PRND R&D in 2020.  

Most of the Netherlands’ funding dedicated to PRNDs in 2020 took the form of ‘drugs’ (72%, or US$8 million). 13% of funding was spent on ‘vaccines,’ a major increase compared to 1% in 2019. ‘Microbicides’ and ‘core funding for a multi-disease R&D organization’ received 9% and 5% of total PRND funding in 2020, respectively.  

The largest shares of R&D funding for PRNDs were dedicated to malaria (31%, or US$3 million) and tuberculosis (TB; 26%, or US$3 million). R&D for HIV/AIDS received 20% of overall PRND funding; however, this funding overlapped with funding for R&D in SRH.  

The Netherlands focuses its support to global health R&D on product development partnerships (PDPs) as they contribute to its development agenda, ‘Investing in Global Prospects’, as well as the ‘Roadmap on Neglected Diseases.’ This roadmap is part of the ‘Top Sector Life Sciences and Health,’ one of nine ‘Top Sectors’ set apart by the government as a joint venture between the Dutch private sector and research centers to excel internationally. ‘Solutions to Neglected and Poverty-Related Diseases’ is one of the ten roadmaps within the ‘Top Sector Life Sciences and Health.’  

Currently, the Netherlands channels its funding for global health R&D through the PDP III Fund against poverty-related diseases, which had a total budget of €86 million (US$96 million) from 2015 - 2020. The new PDP Fund (IV) was approved with a continuation of similar funding levels in the coming years. It remains unclear whether the priorities of the new fund will shift. Traditionally, the fund focuses on the development and availability of affordable and effective medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and innovative products for neglected diseases to combat poverty and inequality.  

Six organizations were selected to receive funding from PDP III: Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi; US$2 million in 2020), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI; US$1 million), Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV; US$3 million in 2020), TB Alliance (US$3 million), the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI; US$200 thousand) and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND; US$600 thousand). Additionally, the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) received US$1 million in 2020, and the University of Lagos was granted around US$84 thousand for research on diagnosis platforms.  

The Dutch government announced the extension of the current PDP Fund in October 2020 for an additional year with the same conditions and partners of the current agreement. The decision on longer-term planning for 2022-2026 was also postponed. 

Although SRH is a development priority, the Netherlands only dedicated US$2 million to HIV/AIDS R&D  

In 2020, the Netherlands’ funding dedicated to R&D for SRH only included US$2 million spent on R&D for HIV/AIDS (which is also counted as part of the PRND funding outlined above). This marks a major decrease from the US$6 million spent on R&D for HIV/AIDS in 2019. Funding spent on R&D for HIV/AIDS was split between ‘vaccines’ (54%) and ‘microbicides’ (46%) in 2020.   

VWS was the largest funder of global health R&D in 2020 due to COVID-19 and demand for vaccines 

The largest funding body for global health R&D is the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), which disbursed US$57 million or 71% of funding in 2020. An additional 16% was disbursed by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw). Previously, only a very small amount of funding was disbursed by both organizations. Their massively increased engagement in 2020 is connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. The VWS was responsible for CEPI funding, which amounted to €50 million (US$57 million) in 2020. Minister Schreinnemacher noted in a letter to parliament that decisions on funding for CEPI for 2022 will be confirmed after the ‘Global Health Strategy’ is published at the end of 2022, but on several occasions, she noted that CEPI funding would not come from the development budget. The ZonMw has traditionally focused on a wide variety of issues pertaining to health, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, has undertaken several projects, from testing to treatment.  

The Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) was formerly the largest funder of Dutch global health R&D; however, DGIS’ share decreased from 97% in 2019 to 13% in 2020. Since 2007, DGIS has disbursed 78% of total Dutch global health R&D funds and is responsible for the coordination, funding, and implementation of development cooperation policy and for ensuring coherence between Dutch and EU development policy. Within DGIS, the Social Development Department (DSO) develops policies related to global health. Within DSO, the Health and AIDS Division (GA) is responsible for the PDP funds. GA reviews proposals together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). The MFA commissioned RVO, which is part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, to manage PDP III (Product Development Partnerships III) and LS&H4D (Life Science & Health for Development) funds on its behalf.