Financing and coordination of health research

16 May 2013

GHTC Briefing Paper, Volume 1

Perspectives from nonprofits on accelerating product development and improving access for low- and middle-income countries

The paper focuses on how nonprofit product development organizations (NPPDs) work to advance R&D for diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, and maternal and reproductive health conditions. NPPDs are nongovernmental organizations that partner with the public, philanthropic, and private sectors to develop health products—including diagnostics, drugs, devices, vaccines, and microbicides—specifically targeted for health needs in LMICs.

NPPDs play a vital role in bringing together the fragmented resources and expertise of the various sectors involved in neglected disease R&D—not only by developing and delivering health products that would not be available otherwise, but also by improving scientific understanding for many of these conditions. For example, the NPPDs included in the paper reported contributing to the development of more than 450 health technologies across neglected and infectious diseases, as well as maternal, newborn, child, reproductive, and sexual health.

Despite this progress, NPPDs reported significant gaps in current R&D efforts. These obstacles include:

  • Funding: Numerous NPPDs said that there are too few funders investing too few resources in R&D for neglected and poverty-related diseases. In 2010 and 2011, 12 funders accounted for almost 90 percent of these R&D efforts. This lack of funding threatens to stall or halt progress.
  • Regulatory systems: Navigating weak and disjointed regulatory systems can be a major obstacle for NPPDs. Many cited a lack of consistent regulatory requirements, as well as limited capacity of national regulatory authorities, as the cause of major delays and increased costs.
  • Local capacity: NPPDs also reported that limitations on local research and manufacturing capacity hinder their ability to keep the R&D pipeline filled and successfully deliver new health tools.

Fortunately, the paper offers the following solutions, which were identified by NPPDs as necessary to enabling the successful development and delivery of new health tools for LMICs:

  • Sustainable and consistent funding. More predictable, stable, and long-term funding across all phases of product development is needed, as well as diversified funding sources and improved coordination across funders. Better coordination could be achieved through a centralized mechanism tasked with identifying R&D needs, gaps, and priorities.
  • Capacity building for local partners. NPPDs and their partners need sufficient resources to invest in strengthening their local partners’ research and manufacturing capacities.
  • Improving regulatory pathways and capacities. NPPDs noted that policy changes and adequate, sustainable funding are needed to support capacity building and alignment of regulatory requirements.

This paper is the first in a series from the GHTC that will examine financing, accessibility, regulatory, and capacity issues facing NPPDs. The series aims to inform global policy and financing discussions about R&D for neglected and poverty-related diseases affecting LMICs. This first paper provides a high-level overview of the greatest gaps and challenges faced by NPPDs, and further papers will explore these issues in greater detail.

Visit the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) website for more information.