Funding future research
Funding neglected disease research and development: the next hurdle
An international campaign to enhance access to medicine in the developing world by discovering and developing new treatments for "neglected" diseases is beginning to pay off.
Almost a dozen products from different sources targeting afflictions ranging from malaria and sleeping sickness to cholera and Japanese encephalitis have reached the market in recent years. Moreover, several companies have more than 100 additional medicines, vaccines and diagnostics currently in preclinical development or undergoing clinical testing.
That burst of scientific productivity, however, has spurred new challenges. Sufficient funding isn’t currently available to sustain clinical development, win regulatory approval and bring those potential medicines and vaccines to patients.
Paul Herrling, Head of the Novartis Institutes for Developing World Medical Research, estimates that the neglected disease development portfolio has cost between USD 1 billion and USD 3 billion to date – but additional funding of at least USD 1 billion per year will be needed over the next decade for successful compounds and vaccines to be registered. The Global Plan to Stop Tuberculosis estimates that USD 9 billion is needed between 2006 and 2015 for research and development. Moreover, at least USD 750 million is needed every year through 2018 for development of new tools against malaria, according to the Global Malaria Action Plan.1
“The most urgent and immediate priority is to make sure that this nascent, growing pipeline doesn't stall because the largest part of funding is yet to come.”
“The most urgent and immediate priority is to make sure that this nascent, growing pipeline doesn’t stall because the largest part of funding is yet to come,” Dr. Herrling said. In addition to financial pressures, development teams must surmount formidable scientific, medical and technological hurdles in making medicines for the developing world. “The challenges are in no way easier than for medicines used in wealthy developed countries. In some ways they are even more difficult because of what medicines earmarked for developing countries must look like in terms of affordability, stability and so on,” he added.
Extending scientific advances to developing countries
The vision of a global research effort to tackle some of the world's most neglected diseases dates from the early 1970s.2 As researchers in biomedical science made giant leaps forward in genetics, molecular biology and other cutting-edge technologies and life expectancy improved dramatically in industrialized nations, attention turned to the plight of those in the less-developed world where infectious diseases continued to cause suffering and death, slowing socio-economic development.
- Moran, M. et al, (2009), Neglected Disease Research & Development: New Times, New Trends, The George Institute for International Health, p. 75
- World Health Organization, (2007), Making a Difference – 30 years of Research and Capacity Building in Tropical Diseases, WHO, Geneva, (Introduction)