By Christian Benard

The global funding for tuberculosis (TB) research is less than half the goal of US$2 billion set forth by participating country governments at the 2018 United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on TB, a new report finds.

The report, ‘Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, 2005-2020’ by Stop TB Partnership and Treatment Action Group presents new data on 2020 funding for TB Research and Development (R&D) and analyzes trends in Investment since 2005 with the disease still killing around 1.5 million people every year. Despite the toil, those funding for TB is less than 1% of the amount invested in covid-19 R&D.

“The mobilization of over US$100 billion for covid-19 research and development in the first 11 months of the pandemic shows us just how powerful a coordinated effort against a disease can be. We must harness this impressive commitment to global health towards the fight to end TB,” Said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.

Funding for the public sector accounted for 70% of the overall R&D funds, at US $ 641 million in 2020, the report reveals.

Philanthropists came second at 15% (US$ 134 million) with private companies and multilateral organizations representing 10% (US$89 million) and 5% (US$49 million) respectively.

The Executive Director of the Afro Global Health Alliance and incoming vice chair of the Stop-TB Partnership Board, Austin Aurinze Obiefuna, said, “What’s enabled development of dozens of COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year has essentially been money. The same enormous amount of funding should be applied with equal vigour to development of TB vaccines.”

The number of countries meeting their fair share targets to allocate 0.1% of their goal’s overall R&D funding to TB has declined since 2017, even as public sector agencies made up 10 out of the 15 top individual entities for TB funding.

Compared to 3 countries in 2019, only United Kingdom reached that target in 2020 as United States on its part spent US$401 million in the same year. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) was the single largest investor while private sectors research has continued to lag from previous years, falling by nearly 40% to US$89 million from a high of US$145 million in 2011.

To close the TB R&D gap, an additional US$10 billion is needed over the next 2 years. “Wealthy countries need to step up and put more money into correcting global health inequalities which covid-19 vaccine allocation inequalities laid bare,” Said Mark Harrington, Executive Director of Treatment Action Group (TAG)- an independent community based research and policy think-tank.

“COVID-19 made more people around the world aware of the importance of R&D spending than ever before, and now is the time to finally start making investments ambitious enough to end TB for good.”

Therefore, in order to step up faster research and contribute to new science for ending TB, nations should further their medical research and development.