Funding for TB research falls for first time in eight years

29 October 2013 - Paris - The 2013 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005- 2012 found that funding for tuberculosis (TB) research and development (R&D) dropped by US$30.4 million in 2012 compared to 2011, the first time funding has fallen since Treatment Action Group (TAG) began tracking investments in 2005.

The report, published by TAG and the Stop TB Partnership shows annual investments by the world’s leading donors to TB R&D, and compares current spending levels with R&D funding targets outlined in the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Plan to Stop TB 2011 - 2015.

Total funding of US$627.4 million for TB R&D in 2012 means that there is a gap of some US$1.39 billion compared to the US$2 billion funding target called for by the Global Plan. Reported funding fails to meet targets in all five key research areas tracked by the TAG report: basic science, diagnostics, drugs, vaccines, and operational research.

"Pharmaceutical companies spent 22 percent less on TB R&D in 2012 than they did in 2011," said TAG’s Executive Director, Mark Harrington. "Big Pharma has always trailed far behind the public sector in funding TB research, and now their wavering support is placing greater pressure on public institutions in the U.S. and Europe."

The report follows warnings from the World Health Organization on October 23 that fragile progress in the fight against TB is under threat from drug resistance and millions of missed patients.

"Stopping TB requires new tools, and new tools require more research investment," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "This report’s findings show the opposite. Investments in research today will pay for themselves many times over in years to come, but any delay now means pushing the opportunity to end TB further and further away."

Funding for TB drug research declined for the first time since TAG began reporting TB R&D investments in 2005, falling 6.7% to US$237.8 million. Spending in drug research needs to increase by US$502.2 million to meet the Global Plan funding target in this category. Diagnostics research funding fell 23.4% to US$42.4 million creating a funding shortfall of US$297.6 million. Funding for TB vaccine development dropped 9.3% to US$86.6 million, leaving a gap of US$293.4 million.

After exceeding the Global Plan funding target in 2011, operational research spending fell back below the target level in 2012. Funding for basic science increased by a modest 6.5% to US$129.6 million, but still falls US$290.4 million short of necessary spending.

For the first time ever, TAG analyzed investments in pediatric TB R&D and found them inadequate at just US$10.3 million - less than two percent of total TB R&D funding. "Spending on pediatric TB R&D saw a steep decline of nearly 12 percent from 2011 to 2012. New investments from UNITAID and USAID to formulate TB drugs for children may help to reverse this trend in 2013, but further contributions for new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB among children are imperative," said Erica Lessem, assistant director of TAG’s TB/HIV Project. Every year, TB kills at least 70,000 children, but they remain underrepresented in TB research.

"The small, unsteady gains in funding we saw from 2005 to 2011 have now sputtered and reversed," said Mark Harrington. "Without dramatically increased funding, promising new tools will languish in clinical development, and other new technologies will never even enter it. We can only achieve zero TB deaths, new infections, and suffering with robust R&D and the reinvigorated financial commitments required to support this lifesaving research."

Read the report.