According to a new report released today by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership, annual funding for tuberculosis (TB) research and development in 2021 reached a historic milestone of $1 billion worldwide. This marked the first time in history that funding for TB R&D had reached this level. While this is a significant achievement, it is still far short of what is needed to achieve the United Nations' sustainable development goal of ending TB as a pandemic by 2030.
The $1 billion committed for research into new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for TB in 2021 is roughly three times the amount raised in 2005 when TAG first began tracking TB research and development (R&D) funding. But it's only half the annual amount that countries committed to raising at the United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018.
To meet the 2030 deadline, governments and duty-bearers must commit more resources to the fight. The United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018 set the target of US$2 billion per annum for R&D.
TAG Executive Director Mark Harrington said they are proud that two decades of activism and scientific advances have led to this unprecedented funding for TB research.
“But we remain disappointed at the pandemic inequity that holds back progress on TB diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. This number must grow to US$5 billion per year,” Harrington said.
According to the report, titled "Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005–2021," the majority of the increase in TB research and development funding in 2021 was invested in operational and epidemiology research and diagnostics development.
Of the total funding, 70% came from public entities, with the U.S. National Institutes of Health being the largest contributor at $354 million, up from $339 million in 2020. However, none of the G7 countries met their fair share target of dedicating 0.1% of their overall research and development spending to TB research. Only three countries, Ireland, the Philippines, and South Africa reached this benchmark.
Philanthropic organizations provided $140 million in funding, with 81% coming from the Gates Foundation. Private sector funding amounted to $102 million, which is lower than its peak of $145 million a decade ago.
The report further highlights the need for increased funding for TB research and development in order to make progress in the fight against the disease. It is essential that more resources are dedicated to finding new treatments and vaccines, improving diagnostic tools, and expanding access to care for those affected by TB. Without adequate funding, it will be challenging to make the necessary progress towards ending TB as a global health threat.
Article by Jedidah Mwangi