Global TB research funding reaches highest level on record, yet still falls US$1 billion short of UN targets

The report published this week by Treatment Action Group (TAG), 'Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends 2005 – 2018', provides new data on tuberculosis (TB) funding and analyses funding trends since 2005. In 2018, funding levels into TB research and development (R&D) reached a record high of US$ 906 million, continuing a three-year trend of steadily increasing investment. However, the total is still less than half of what is needed annually in order to achieve the TB R&D targets agreed in the political declaration signed by world leaders at the United Nations High Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in 2018. 

Dr Grania Brigden, The Union’s Director of the Department of TB, said: “It is encouraging to see investment in TB R&D increasing but we continue to fall woefully short of what is needed. At the UN HLM on TB in 2018, world leaders signed a political declaration committing to invest US$ 2 billion annually - and we are yet to see adequate action on that promise.

“In fact, the same small group of funders continues to shoulder the burden for funding R&D into TB. This is a disease that not a single country on earth has succeeded in eliminating - and countries worldwide must take responsibility for this shared epidemic. These funding targets can be met if all governments contribute their part. This means directing 0.1 percent of overall R&D into TB R&D, yet only a handful of countries currently do. 

“The report shows increased funding from some of the high-burden countries, with the Indian Council of Medical Research being in the top ten funders of TB R&D. We welcome that news and hope that the BRICS R&D network will continue to work to increase investment and coordination from these countries. 

“Involving the TB community in R&D is key to ensuring that the products developed adequately reflect the needs of the community as well as ensuring that the necessary access and affordability are considered from early in the pipeline. 

“By making products from the R&D pipeline - including data, intellectual property and compounds - accessible we can ensure TB research is conducted through an efficient and collaborative process to further spur progress. With promising results of a clinical trial for a new TB vaccine, announced at the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health and seven new compounds in phase one it is vital that investment and collaboration efforts increase if we are going to be able to develop new TB treatment regimens and undertake large multi-country vaccine trials to move us towards effective new tools with which to combat TB.”

The report comes on the heels of the Stop TB Partnership’s release of its new and updated Global Plan to End TB 2018-2022, an investment plan for how countries can transform the response to TB. The Global Plan lays out a clear framework through which countries can invest their fair share of financing in TB R&D, which is essential for delivering the new diagnostics, medicines and vaccines needed to end the TB epidemic. 

Following the release of the updated Global Plan, The Union called on governments to fulfil the commitments made in the UN political declaration of 2018 to end TB and to implement the Global Plan with the urgency that the TB challenge demands.