Global health R&D

At a glance

This section focuses on donor countries’ support for 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 official development assistance, or ODA.)

Funding trends*

According to data from the G-FINDER survey conducted by Policy Cures Research, public funding for research and development (R&D) for emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), poverty-related neglected diseases (PRNDs), and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) stood at US$3.5 billion in 2019. Total public funding for all three disease areas has been increasing since 2013. The data suggests that between 2018 and 2019 it increased by 1%; however, this apparently minimal rise could be the result of COVID-19-related difficulties with survey participation and data availability. 


Top donors

Public funding for global health R&D comes mainly from a few donors. In 2019, the US provided almost three quarters of all public funding (US$2.6 billion, 72%). The second-largest donor was the UK (US$281 million, 8%), followed by EU Institutions (US$181 million, 5%) and Germany (US$100 million, 3%).
In 2019, 36% of the public funding spent in this sector went toward R&D targeting PRNDs exclusively, 24% was spent on R&D for EIDs exclusively, and 5% was disbursed toward R&D for SRH exclusively. The remainder was spent on R&D initiatives targeting more than one disease area. Overall, most of the funding went toward vaccines (28%), followed by basic research (25%), and drugs (14%). 

Total public funding for global health R&D can be broken down by disease area:

  • In 2019, public funding for R&D for EIDs stood at US$966 million, an increase of 4% compared to 2018. The US, Norway, and the UK were the top donors to this disease area. The majority of the funding went to R&D relevant to multiple diseases (41%), followed by filoviral disease (33%, which includes Ebola and Marburg), and Zika (11%).
    • According to Policy Cures Research's COVID-19 R&D tracker, between the start of the pandemic and October 2020 (latest data available), public governments announced funding commitments totaling US$7.8 billion for COVID-19 R&D. US$5.0 billion of this will go towards vaccines, US$1.0 billion towards therapeutics, and US$0.7 billion toward diagnostics. 
  • In 2019, public funding for R&D related to PRNDs stood at US$2.5 billion, stable compared to 2018. The US, the UK, and EU Institutions are the top donors to this disease area. Much of the funding went to R&D for HIV/AIDs (44%), followed by tuberculosis (17%), and malaria (13%).
  • In 2019, public funding for R&D on SRH stood at US$1.3 billion, an increase of 8% compared to 2018. The US, the UK, and France are the top donors to this disease area. The majority of the funding went to R&D for HIV/AIDs (84%), followed by sexually transmitted infections (STIs, 17%), human papillomavirus (HPV) and HPV-related cervical cancer (13%), and contraception (3%).

* We are in the process of relaunching the Donor Tracker website. Please check back in early December for the latest data. In the meantime, please refer to our Donor Profiles for the latest sector data.