A New Era for Research Partnerships in Global Health

Leading a new study with the UK government to accelerate system-wide collaborations

Geneva, Switzerland, July 2020

We are excited to lead on a new global study commissioned by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth
& Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID) to assess the role of partnerships in the development of new medicines and technologies for 35
poverty-related and neglected diseases, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. To capture the scale of this humanitarian crisis, out of the total $260 billion spent globally on health R&D, less than 2% ($4 billion) is channeled towards neglected populations. Our findings and recommendations will help shape future investments and activities in this field for the UK government and other major government donors and philanthropies including The Wellcome Trust and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 


This important project comes at an evolutionary time when the world is experiencing unprecedented challenges battling the Covid-19 pandemic. When markets and systems fail, all sectors – governments, industry and the civic sector – need to collaborate in new ways for the common good. Collaborations across sectors and systems leadership are essential to accelerate much needed innovation and improve access to technologies towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. 


The study looks at a range of innovative non-profit multi-stakeholder organizations, called Product Development Partnerships (PDPs). PDPs work as virtual orchestras by acting as R&D systems facilitators, aggregating funding and technical expertise from public, private, academic and philanthropic sectors to develop vaccines, drugs and other technologies for diseases of povertyThey include Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), TB Alliance, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), PATH, IAVI and many others. They were formed two decades ago to address the so-called 10/90 gap which strikingly still persists today. This gap shows that only 10% of worldwide resources devoted to health research are put towards health in developing countries, where over 90% of all preventable deaths exist, according to the findings by the Forum on Health Research for Development in 1990.  


This gap in funding has represented not only a woeful market and government failure in development of new products for diseases of poverty, but it also reflects a failure to respond to the humanitarian needs of the disenfranchised. Nearly 2.6 million people die annually from the three biggest infectious diseases – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This number is growing due to the pandemic. Despite marginal annual increases in public and private investments for the three, funding has remained disproportionate to the burden experienced. Furthermore, neglected tropical diseases such as leishmaniasis, chagas disease, sleeping sickness and others, are endemic in 149 countries and impact over 1.4 billion people – mostly the poorest and most vulnerable, including those in poor urbanized areas in high income countries. These challenges are further amplified by the dual burden of noncommunicable diseases. 


GD is assessing the rapidly changing global health landscape, emerging collaborative models and the role and potential of PDPs to address complex challenges.  This participatory study is engaging key global influencers and experts, and will provide investment recommendations to donors.


The project is led by Barbara Bulc in collaboration with Rohit Ramchandani of Antara Global Health Advisors and will be completed in early in 2021.


Photo: HIV medicines can change lives. Anne with her three year old daughter, Mary. (Paul Kamau DNDi – Nairobi Kenya)