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Treatment Action Group Issues Global Tuberculosis Research & Development Update

Originally posted by Global Health Council on November 10, 2010

A new report from the Treatment Action Group (TAG), a research and policy think tank, and the Global Stop TB Partnership, reveals that in 2009 – the last year for which full data are available – the world invested just $614 million in tuberculosis (TB) research and development (R&D).

TB R&D spending rose $122 million from 2008’s $492 million – a 25% increase – but still remains at less than one-third of the approximately $2 billion annual investment that the Stop TB Partnership recommends be invested in TB R&D if the disease is to be eliminated as a public health threat by the year 2050.

“Unless the world triples its investment in TB research over the coming five years, the world will fail to develop new diagnostics, treatment regimens, and vaccines which are required if TB is ever to be eliminated,” said TAG’s Executive Director, Mark Harrington. “This year we not only witnessed an increase in TB R&D spending, but the Stop TB Partnership increased funding targets for TB vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs, and included new estimates for fundamental science and operational research. Now, with a comprehensive research agenda and evidence-based funding targets, we can focus on mobilizing resources to defeat TB once and for all.”

The report, Tuberculosis Research and Development: 2010 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005-2009, tracks annual research spending on TB across six research and development areas, with a deeper analysis of the top ten funders who accounted for 81% of the global funding total in 2009. “The report provides year-on-year trends for policymakers and activists so they may identify who the major TB donors are, know where the funds are invested, and determine where to target advocacy efforts,” said Eleonora Jiménez Salazar, the author’s report. “We hope it will catalyze donors, government, industry, and civil society to work toward the $2 billion per year needed to produce new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB.”

Though the economy remained fragile in 2009, funding levels for TB drugs increased from $174 million in 2008 to $188 million. Funding for basic science also grew from $99 million to $170 million. In 2009, TB diagnostics research funding fell from $50 million to $41 million, a 17% drop, and TB vaccine spending remained flat at $109 million—raising concerns about the pace of vaccine development. Jiménez notes, “without an effective vaccine against all forms of TB that is safe to administer to children and adults regardless of their HIV status, the world will be unable to stop TB.”

Across donor sectors, the report finds private sector investments rose 55% from $72 million to $111 million, reflecting the advance of several new compounds into early stage clinical trials and two new drugs into phase II trials. Public sector spending also increased by 42% from $265 million to $378 million. Philanthropic spending, however, fell 19% from $155 million to $125 million.

“The TB research agenda is at a crossroads. There are now four novel classes of drugs in clinical trials to treat TB. In places that have trained staff and facilities to support new molecular TB diagnostic tests, pulmonary forms of the disease can be diagnosed in 90 minutes, as opposed to the 8 to 16 weeks standard TB culture tests take to yield a result,” said Javid Syed TAG’s TB/HIV Project Director. “To realize the full potential of these new diagnostic tools and novel drug candidates, we need adequate and sustainable funding to see that they move through all phases of drug development and meet good clinical practice standards.”

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