08 December 2020 | News

Unitaid ranked as one of the world’s leaders in funding tuberculosis research

Geneva – A new report on Funding for TB Research in 2019 released today by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the United Nations-hosted Stop TB Partnership ranks Unitaid as the first multilateral funder for paediatric tuberculosis (TB) research and the fifth largest funder overall.

As COVID-19 threatens to set back the gains made over recent years to end TB, the results of the report are a reflection of Unitaid’s intensified investments to eliminate this disease which remains the world’s leading infectious killer.

Although multilateral actors represent the smallest category of research funding with just eight individual donors comprising 7% of the total spending, their importance is growing. As stated in the report, funding from multilateral organisations reached its highest level ever, jumping by nearly $20 million between 2018 and 2019.

Much of this year’s increase in multilateral expenditures came from Unitaid, whose TB research investments have jumped from US$26 million in 2018 to US$35 million in 2019. Sizeable spending by the Global Fund, and first-ever estimates of TB R&D spending from the World Bank have also been key drivers of this year’s increase.

The report highlights that multilateral funders can play a crucial role in building connections across sectors and in funding projects that fall outside the scope of other donors. They are also demonstrating to be increasingly important in coordinating TB research.

Unitaid has contributed to these efforts by supporting research related to multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) treatment, paediatric TB diagnosis, child-friendly formulations of MDR-TB drugs, TB preventive therapy (the 3HP regimen), and digital adherence technologies.

The report particularly underlines Unitaid’s role in TB paediatric research. While figures show that paediatric TB funding has declined slightly from US$61 million to US$58 million between 2018 and 2019, it has been a priority for Unitaid which is the largest single funder in this category (US$15.8 million spent in 2019).

“Unitaid has intensified its commitment to end TB, increasing its efforts to identify relevant investments in research that would allow innovations such as optimised formulations for children and scale-up of the 3HP regimen to reach people most affected by TB in low- and middle-income countries. TB is curable and preventable when patients have access to the right tools and treatments,” said Janet Ginnard, Director of Strategy at Unitaid.

“There is so much good TB science underway and planned that merits increased financial support. But people with and at risk of TB will only be able to benefit from a fraction of this promising science unless governments step up funding for TB research in the same way they have mobilised billions of dollars for COVID-19 R&D,” said Mark Harrington, TAG Executive Director.

In 2019, 10 million people fell ill with TB, according to the World Health Organization, and 1.4 million died from the disease. More than 95 percent of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. People living with HIV are 18 times more likely to develop active TB disease.

New York-based TAG has tracked global funding for TB research and development since 2005, using an electronic survey of public, private, philanthropic, and multilateral organisations.

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Media contact: Thalia Bayle | +41 79 660 56 37 | baylet@unitaid.who.int

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