New report demonstrates how R&D partnerships serving neglected communities have developed dozens of life-saving innovations since 2010

PDPs reduce investment risks and stretch limited budgets leading to 375 innovations targeting infectious diseases under development. 

28 Jan 2021

The public-private initiatives that contributed to COVID-19 vaccine and drug development have showcased a model for accelerating biomedical innovation. This is another powerful example of how public-private partnerships have established themselves as powerhouses for fighting global health threats. According to a new report launched today from a group of 12 product development partnerships (PDPs), over the last decade, such alliances have brought to market 66 new drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other technologies for a number of diseases—including tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, meningitis and sleeping sickness. These innovations have reached and benefitted more than 2.4 billion people in low-income countries.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the critical nature of medical research and development to the fore, to not only protect life but also our interconnected way of life,” said Dr David Reddy, CEO of MMV. “COVID-19 adds to a growing list of diseases that threatens humanity and undermines progress. The PDP model is a key approach to drive medical innovation to address such challenges, particularly for diseases of poverty, and has demonstrated success time and again. We must ensure sustained funding to deliver on the promise of our pipelines and commitment to improve the lives of people affected by malaria and other diseases of poverty.”

The report notes the stark contrast between the product development for diseases of poverty before and after the ascent of PDPs around the turn of the century. For example, from 1975 to 2000, a mere 16 of some 1400 newly developed medicines targeted diseases that mainly affected least-developed countries.Since their inception, PDPs have marshalled industry, government and philanthropic investments and generated new political capital to pack a once-barren global health R&D pipeline. Currently, the cumulative pipeline of the PDPs behind the report contains more than 375 new innovations, 25 percent of them now in late-stage development. That is three times the size of the 2010 pipeline, which itself was many times larger than it was at the turn of the century.1

PDPs build alliances between public, private, academic and philanthropic partners, enabling the sharing of financial risks and coordination of diverse expertise and experience. Further, the report finds that a key factor in the success of the PDPs is that they are developing products that are both affordable and adapted for the populations in need. It also reveals that PDPs are cost effective. For example, DNDi estimated their cost to develop and bring fexinidazole, the first all-oral cure for sleeping sickness, to market at between at US $70 to $225 million, compared to the $1.3 billion estimated by Tufts Center for Study of Drug Development as the average cost for for-profit pharmaceutical developers to develop a novel chemical entity.2 

The report cautions that in order to continue this impressive track record, the future success of PDPs will require a strong focus on late-stage research and efforts to ensure access to recently launched technologies, given the rapidly maturing pipeline of new products. For example, the report points out that there is a need to ensure funding for research (particularly in the context of emerging drug resistance) manufacturing and distribution as well as training health service providers. The report concludes that “with more products approaching and reaching the market than ever before, the need to continue to invest in research and access is increasingly critical and urgent.”

1. Grace C. Product Development Partnerships (PDPs): Lessons from PDPs established to develop new health technologies for neglected diseases. DFID Human Development Resource Centre. June 2, 2010.

2. DiMasi JA, Grabowski HG, Hansen RA. Innovation in the pharmaceutical industry: new estimates of R&D costs. Journal of Health Economics, vol 47, 20–33, May 2016.