JOURNAL ARTICLE

UK investments in global infectious disease research 1997-2010: a case study

Michael G Head, Joseph R Fitchett, Mary K Cooke, Fatima B Wurie, Andrew C Hayward, Rifat Atun
Lancet Infectious Diseases 2013, 13 (1): 55-64
23140942

BACKGROUND: Infectious diseases account for 15 million deaths per year worldwide, and disproportionately affect young people, elderly people, and the poorest sections of society. We aimed to describe the investments awarded to UK institutions for infectious disease research.

METHODS: We systematically searched databases and websites for information on research studies from funding institutions and created a comprehensive database of infectious disease research projects for the period 1997-2010. We categorised studies and funding by disease, cross-cutting theme, and by a research and development value chain describing the type of science. Regression analyses were reported with Spearman's rank correlation coefficient to establish the relation between research investment, mortality, and disease burden as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).

FINDINGS: We identified 6170 funded studies, with a total research investment of UK£2·6 billion. Studies with a clear global health component represented 35·6% of all funding (£927 million). By disease, HIV received £461 million (17·7%), malaria £346 million (13·3%), tuberculosis £149 million (5·7%), influenza £80 million (3·1%), and hepatitis C £60 million (2·3%). We compared funding with disease burden (DALYs and mortality) to show low levels of investment relative to burden for gastrointestinal infections (£254 million, 9·7%), some neglected tropical diseases (£184 million, 7·1%), and antimicrobial resistance (£96 million, 3·7%). Virology was the highest funded category (£1 billion, 38·4%). Leading funding sources were the Wellcome Trust (£688 million, 26·4%) and the Medical Research Council (£673 million, 25·8%).

INTERPRETATION: Research funding has to be aligned with prevailing and projected global infectious disease burden. Funding agencies and industry need to openly document their research investments to redress any inequities in resource allocation.

FUNDING: None.

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