John Reeder & James Whiting
John Reeder is Director of the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). James Whiting is Executive Director of Malaria No More UK
Without testing the delivery of treatments, tools, and services, these products can fail: whether it’s because they’re not culturally sensitive or because they’re not affordable or efficient. Such research for implementation is an important part of the research and development (R&D) process and is the focus of a new report on funding of malaria R&D. The report, Bridging the gaps in malaria R&D: an analysis of funding—from basic research and product development to research for implementation, sheds light on funding streams for malaria R&D and is the first survey to include funding for implementation research as well as basic malaria research and product development.
The pilot survey of leading funders of malaria R&D covers the 3-year period, 2014–2016, and found that just 16% of total average annual investments of US$673 million were spent on research for implementation. The greatest share of funding went to drug development (32%), followed by vaccines and basic research (21% and 20%, respectively). Investments in vector control tools and diagnostics, while growing, comprise a smaller proportion of funding.
Many of us were alarmed when the 2017 World Malaria Report showed that the total number of estimated malaria cases rose in 2016 by 5 million over the previous year. The increases in malaria cases were not uniform and have prompted malaria experts to recommend a more customised approach—one that ensures that available tools are used to maximum effect. In the absence of data on investments in research for implementation, however, it has not been possible to assess whether funding levels are consistent with the priority assigned to it by leading funders, or whether the funding allocated is sufficient. Although we don’t know the answer to this question yet, the new report concludes that funding for basic research and product development does fall short of the need.
Providing a fuller picture of which R&D areas are receiving funding should help both funders and policymakers match their commitments to the need. Now there is an urgent need for them to come together to discuss the implications of what we have learned.
Bridging the gaps in malaria R&D was developed by PATH, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), and Malaria No More UK, with input from the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme (WHO/GMP), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), and the International Vector Control Consortium (IVCC). Policy Cures Research provided data on financial resource flows and also conducted the pilot survey to derive an initial estimate of investments in research for implementation.