They target a seemingly diverse range of conditions — tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, along with illnesses long ignored outside of where their impact is felt — African trypanosomiasis, lieshmaniasis, Chagas disease — but they are linked by this: They are products without profitable commercial markets in the places for which they are developed. For that reason the development of medicines, vaccines and diagnostic tools to stop preventable illnesses and deaths from treatable illnesses has relied on significant investments from a handful of governments and philanthropic organizations. Those investments, a new briefing paper from the Global Health Technologies Coalition highlights, are no longer enough.
Financing is the second in a series of briefing papers from the coalition examining approaches, challenges and opportunities confronting nonprofit organizations developing products to target neglected and poverty related diseases. While the coalition’s first report in the series focused on challenges to identifying, developing and introducing products in settings of limited infrastructure and scientific capacity, the latest brief explores the roles that innovation, coordination and collaboration must play in continuing global health research and development.
Since 2009, nonprofit organizations partnering with public, private and philanthropic donors to develop new health-related technologies have seen their funding drop by $50 million a year. While new donors have stepped up, the brief notes, the overall decline in funding comes as products are reaching the most expensive phase of development, including clinical trials.
As a result, nonprofit product developers are branching out, including by teaming with private-sector partners with commercial interests in the low and middle-income countries where the products are needed, reinvesting gains from previous product development and building cases for long term investments. The potential market value of an effective TB vaccine, for example the report notes, could reach $13 to $14 billion over ten years.
The GHTC series is set to continue with examinations of regulatory challenges, partnerships to strengthen research and development capacities in country, and ensuring that products are accessible.