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Estimated global R&D financing for communicable and noncommunicable diseases

Marta Feletto, Senior Scientist with the Global Forum, undertook a study to ascertain the extent of financed research carried out on communicable diseases (CDs) and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in 2008, at the request of the WHO Expert Working Group on R&D Financing.

This study fed into the Report of the Expert Working Group on R&D Financing, that was submitted to the 126th WHO Executive Board meeting in 18-23 January 2010 and whose final version will be submitted to the 63rd World Health Assembly in May 2010.

Findings from the five largest public investors in health R&D (France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US), from the top ten pharmaceutical industries by income and from the largest philanthropic organizations show a consistent 2:1 ratio in R&D funding allocated to NCDs (notably to cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and mental health) and CDs respectively. Interestingly, cancer research alone absorbs in all countries, the equivalent of – or more than – what flows into research for all communicable diseases. This is also consistent with a pipeline analysis from the US, which found that out of 2,900 medicines in development in 2008, 750 (25%) of the compounds were cancer drugs, 312 (10%) for heart disease and stroke and 109 (3.7%) for HIV/AIDS. Within the private not-for-profit sector, noncommunicable diseases are also widely covered by charity funding, while communicable disease funding remains almost exclusively in the realm of private foundations.

With limited publicly available data and no standard reporting mechanisms for R&D, it is difficult to disaggregate data by disease category or ascertain how much of it is of relevance to low- and middle-income countries. Overall, attention needs to be focused on research for both CDs and NCDs, with greater attention to research that benefits LMICs. The costs of disease to these societies have in fact serious implications for poverty reduction and economic development.

Conditional upon funding opportunities, the Global Forum for Health Research intends to undertake a more comprehensive study to collect and collate data from a wider range of sources, and to disaggregate information into specific diseases that would constitute a baseline, against which future trends could be analysed.


To download the full study on Estimated Global R&D Financing for Communicable and NonCommunicable Disease:

To download the Report of the WHO Expert Working Group on Research and Development Financing, submitted to the WHO Executive Board meeting in January 2010:

WHO Expert Working Group on R&D Financing

The WHO Expert Working Group on R&D Financing is a group of internationally recognized policy-makers and technical experts in the field of public health, biomedical science, finance and economics. The group was formed at the request of the WHO member states to examine current financing and coordination of research and development, as well as proposals for new and innovative sources of funding to stimulate R&D related to Type II and Type III diseases and the specific R&D needs of developing countries in relation to Type I diseases. The group's final report will be presented to the World Health Assembly in May 2010:

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