Report shows $1.37 billion gap in R&D funding needed to eliminate TB by 2050

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TB research and development investment increased 76 percent between 2005 and 2010, but investment has slowed markedly, with only 2 percent growth since 2009. The $630.4 million 2010 investment is only one-third of the $2 billion needed to stay on track with the Global Plan to Stop TB 10-year implementation and research strategy to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050. That’s according to the second edition of the 2011 Report on TB Research Funding and Trends from 2005 – 2010, released Thursday by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership.  The report calls on emerging economies to step up their contributions to TB R&D to help make up the difference.

“In comparison to the Global Plan targets, the only category that came close to reaching the annual target was operational research (76% of the $80 million target); while the biggest percentage gap was seen in TB diagnostics (14% of the $340 million target).”

The report’s second edition accounts for an additional $13.4 million in TB R&D funding – a combination of new funding figures from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Company Y, plus revised data from Pfizer and the European Commission. The report tracks six R&D areas (see chart right) – basic science, infrastructure/unspecified, diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and operational research – with only operational research coming close to reaching the annual target set in the Global Plan.  

Some of the interesting findings include:

  • From 2009 to 2010, vaccine funding fell by 29 percent, basic science funding fell 25 percent.
  • Public sector funding fell by five percent (from $395.3 million to $376.2 million).
  • R&D funding for TB drug development dominates the portfolio, with a 20 percent increase in drug funding—from $191.5 million to $230.5 million from 2009 to 2010.
  • From 2009 to 2010, diagnostics funding increased 24 percent from $38.9 million to $48.4 million.
  • The top ten funding sources account for 81 percent of the total TB R&D funding pot.
  • The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – continued to be the leading TB R&D funder in 2010, investing $158 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Otsuka Pharmaceutical rounded out the top three.
  • Overall, NIH spent $224 million in 2010—36 percent of the R&D total.

The report shows the crucial role U.S. investment plays in the TB R&D field – with the various agencies in the federal government together providing the majority of the TB R&D pie. Many advocates fear what future U.S. spending bills will hold for TB R&D.

“TB is in danger of falling off the global health priority map,” said TAG Executive Director Mark Harrington in the organization’s press release.  Harrington’s remarks refer to the state of funding for TB services as well as research and development.   “Tuberculosis grants receive only ten percent of funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The cancellation of the upcoming round 11 funding – which was to have had a special focus on TB – endangers life-saving programs across the world. Meanwhile, President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget gratuitously cuts $12 million to reduce U.S. contributions to bilateral TB assistance through [the U.S. Agency for International Development] to a derisory $224 million. While new diagnostics, drugs, and regimens now in development have the potential to lead to a renaissance in TB control and elimination, the U.S. is abandoning its global leadership in the fight against the disease.”

In other news, TAG highlighted that children make up the most neglected patient population by releasing a report entitled Being Brave: Stories of Children with Drug-Resistant TB. A collaborative effort with the Sentinel Project on Pediatric Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, the stories chronicle the struggles of children and their caregivers. “…even in successful cases, diagnosis and treatment of DR-TB in children is lengthy and difficult. Diagnostic tools are often inaccurate and can take months to determine resistance. Without pediatric formulations of most drugs, treatment is difficult to administer,” according to the TAG press release.

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