Many of you will have heard about the urgent need for new tools to prevent, diagnose and treat tuberculosis. We tend to talk about it quite a lot. Recently, a brand new report charting investments into global health research and development (R&D) has been launched in Brussels, so we’re going to spend some time thinking about the bigger picture. 

TheG-Finder Report  tracks funding for better tools against neglected diseases, like tuberculosis. This funding reached a new high of US $4 billion in 2018. This is an increase of US $290 million since 2017. This is great news, because it is both the largest real funding increase on record and the first time that funding has grown every year for three consecutive years. 

Building momentum on this really matters. It means that countries are starting to recognise that without investing in R&D now, we won’t be able to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. TB is the perfect example – without new tools by 2025, the WHO says the world will simply not be able to end TB by 2030. The same applies to lots of other diseases, whether that is malaria, hepatitis or HIV. We have to move past the ‘either-or’ that suggests that we can either fund health programmes or research but not both. Instead, we need to recognise that with a little bit of investment in research today, our programmes will be much more impactful, person-centred and cost-effective tomorrow. 

To take one example, in the UK, TBEC member organisation RESULTS UK have been campaigning to encourage the government to invest more in R&D. With almost two-thirds of UK funding for global health R&D coming from public sources, even tiny fluctuations can have huge impact on what research gets funded, which products become available, and when. The good news is that their efforts have paid off. In 2018, the UK government invested US $230 million in R&D for global health, which is almost 9.2% of all public funding for global health research. It is vital that other countries follow this example .

Crucially, it’s not just about increasing investments in any particular disease or project. The G-Finder report shows the power of working together to increase the overall budget for global health R&D, whether it’s for basic science or product development partnerships likeIAVI  andFIND. It also shows that in order to foster innovation and drive impact, funding needs to be sustainable, facilitate global collaboration, and build patient-access into the design of every project. 

In the UK, the government recently committed to increase investments in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. It has been proved how public investments in R&D can deliver impact not only in other countries but also at home in the national health service, such as with the GeneXpert diagnostic test for TB. So, let’s get to work. 

Written by Janika Hauser, Senior Parliamentary Advocacy Officer for RESULTS UK. If you have any questions about advocating for R&D funding, please do get in touch at coordinator@tbcoalition.eu. This blog was first published on the RESULTS UK website. 

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