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.)

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. 

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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%).