Does malaria research get too much money?

Of course the answer to this rhetorical question is a resounding “NO”, but the issues of both equitable and adequate funding for disease research and control efforts continues to be debated. From the following press release one might get a different impression:

The first survey of global public and private investment into R&D (Research and Development) for new products for neglected diseases has found that funding was over US$ 2.5 billion in 2007. The lion’s share of funding – almost 80% – went towards HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Many significant diseases responsible for killing millions of people in developing countries – including pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases – remain underfunded and collectively received less than 6% of total funding. These are the results of the G-FINDER ‘Global Funding of Innovation for Neglected Disease’ survey, released and published in London today by The George Institute for International Health.

Malaria, according to the report, received 18% of R&D funding.  Just as a reality check, Unicef’s State of the World’s Children in 2008 indicated that globally malaria accounts for directly 8% of under-five age child mortality.  Neonatal and infant deaths attributable to malaria in pregnancy are not differentiated. The impact of malaria is much higher in endemic countries than global estimates imply.

No one is arguing that the solution is a redistribution of the existing pie so that there is more money to search for better treatment for pneumonia, for example. We need a larger pie, which could be a major challenge in these tough economic times.  In fact the impact of the economic downturn on water, sanitation, nutrition and housing, to name a few areas, themselves may have a bigger impact on disease control that R&D dollars.

Recent events such as those at Davos and TED show that some corporations and foundations are trying to keep up their support for disease control and research. More partners need to join the effort.

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