Review shows need to diversify neglected disease funding
- Report shows that 55 per cent of NTD funding came from just two donors in 2013
- One of them dropped their contribution this year due to US austerity measures
- Garnering more funds from middle-income nations may help assure the flow of money
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Experts have warned that the global pot of cash for research on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) may have too few contributors, following the release of an annual review of the field’s funding situation.
The comments came at a launch event for the G-FINDER 2014 report last month (9 December), where it was revealed that a US$193 million fall in global NTD funding in 2013 was mostly due to austerity measures in the United States.
This may show the sector is overly dependent on a few sources for funding, the experts warned. Some suggested that one way of diversifying would be to encourage more and larger donations from middle-income nations.
The report was published by Policy Cures, an independent Australian organisation that offers analysis on NTDs. It has been producing reports on research spending on NTDs each year since 2007.
This year’s report shows that 2013 spending of US$3.22 billion was down slightly on 2012 (see graph 1). The overall decrease is largely due to the US$188 million spending cut by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) due to US austerity measures.
At the launch event, Policy Cures executive director Mary Moran pointed out that NTD funding is reliant on a small group of funders. Despite its fall in funding, the NIH provided 39 per cent of global NTD funding in 2013, and there are a select group of other funders (see graph 2).
“It is quite a worry that the US government’s [austerity measures] had such a big impact on the funding,” said Samia Saad, a senior programme officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
She confirmed that the foundation has no plans to increase its annual funding of NTD research above the US$500 million level it has maintained over the past few years.
Melvin Spigelman, chief executive officer of the TB Alliance, said he thought Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa should boost their funding. “There is a conspicuous gap from the BRICS countries,” he said. “They’re just beginning to dip their toes in the water; we have to find a mechanism to have those countries contribute more.”
The issue was also raised at an online discussion hosted by NGO alliance the Global Health Technologies Coalition on 10 December. One idea mooted was to set up a pooled fund based around donations from developed nations, but with a commitment from those countries to match any funds contributed by poorer countries.
Robert Terry, who is a manager within the capacity building team of TDR (WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases), said his organisation had in May suggested creating a pooled funding mechanism for research into NTDs.
“We’ve been receiving pledges from countries, particularly the traditional donor countries, saying they will be prepared to put money into this fund,” said Terry.
> Link to the G-FINDER report 2014