Despite hundreds of pipeline programs in testing and billions of dollars spent annually, the world isn’t doing enough to support research into infectious disease and meet global health goals, according to a new study funded by the Gates Foundation.
As of Aug. 31, 2017, researchers identified more than 500 infectious disease candidates in development. Ushering them all through development would yield 128 launches by 2030—mostly in diagnostics—and cost $16.3 billion, according to the study authors.
But given the current funding situation, researchers said the world is unlikely to see new “highly efficacious” vaccines against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis by 2030, a goal set just three years ago.
In 2015, member states of the United Nations formed a set of goals that included ending "the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases” by 2030. But the study authors note that won’t happen with current health technologies; new vaccines will have to play an important role.
The research suggests additional annual funding of $4.5 billion to $5.8 billion per year to support the hundreds of R&D programs the team identified. They noted that the world currently invests about $3 billion in infectious disease research, meaning the annual funding gap is between $1.5 billion and $2.8 billion. The study authors said their method likely underestimates the gap, and that infectious disease R&D funding fell from 2009 to 2015.
Speaking with the New York Times, Dr. Trevor Mundel, Gates Foundation president for global health, said he hopes the work will encourage more funding for R&D rather than discouraging it. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while funding is lacking to produce a highly HIV efficacious vaccine, a product with an efficacy of “50 to 60 percent protection is deployable.”
Of 128 expected launches by 2030, the researchers expect 60% to come in the form of diagnostics.