Funding infectious disease research: a systematic analysis of UK research investments by funders 1997-2010

Joseph R Fitchett, Michael G Head, Mary K Cooke, Fatima B Wurie, Rifat Atun
PloS One 2014, 9 (8): e105722

BACKGROUND: Research investments are essential to address the burden of disease, however allocation of limited resources is poorly documented. We systematically reviewed the investments awarded by funding organisations to UK institutions and their global partners for infectious disease research.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Public and philanthropic investments for the period 1997 to 2010 were included. We categorised studies by infectious disease, cross-cutting theme, and by research and development value chain, reflecting the type of science. We identified 6165 funded studies, with a total research investment of UK £2.6 billion. Public organisations provided £1.4 billion (54.0%) of investments compared with £1.1 billion (42.4%) by philanthropic organisations. Global health studies represented an investment of £928 million (35.7%). The Wellcome Trust was the leading investor with £688 million (26.5%), closely followed by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) with £673 million (25.9%). Funding over time was volatile, ranging from ∼£40 million to ∼£160 million per year for philanthropic organisations and ∼£30 million to ∼£230 million for public funders.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Infectious disease research funding requires global coordination and strategic long-term vision. Our analysis demonstrates the diversity and inconsistent patterns in investment, with volatility in annual funding amounts and limited investment for product development and clinical trials.

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