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Research and Development

Research and development (R&D) is the bedrock of progress in global health.


Research and development (R&D) is the bedrock of progress in global health. Past R&D investments have led to groundbreaking advancements—antiretroviral treatments for HIV, vaccines for Ebola and malaria, insecticide-treated bed nets, and more effective tuberculosis (TB) treatments—which have and will continue to drive remarkable progress in global health. 


There is still a tremendous need for global health research to deliver new and better tools to combat long-standing and emerging threats. Millions of people around the world still suffer or die from HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and other neglected diseases and health conditions, and new threats—like extensively drug-resistant TB and COVID-19—continue to emerge. 


U.S. government investment in global health R&D is necessary to solve for market failures. Private-sector companies lack the incentive to invest in research, because these health issues affect the world’s poorest (or in the case of emerging threats, future populations). Sustained U.S. support in all stages of research are critical to make new discoveries and advance products to market for these conditions—a process that requires continued time and resources.

Investments in global health R&D not only save lives in the world’s poorest places, they also directly benefit the United States—creating jobs and economic growth, protecting Americans from disease threats, promoting cost savings, improving the efficiency of U.S. health and development programs, and building a foundation to respond to future infectious disease threats.  

The United States must continue its leadership in health innovation through sustained funding and supporting a policy environment conducive to discovering and developing the next global health innovations.


Sustain or increase funding for global health research and product development. Policymakers must ensure future federal budgets prioritize robust and sustainable funding for global health R&D across U.S. agencies engaged in this work including the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Defense (DoD), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Where they have discretion, U.S. agencies should set a percentage of disease- or global health-related budgets to be directed to R&D. Given that most global health R&D programs are not directly appropriated by Congress, agencies must prioritize funding for developing global health technologies within existing programs.

Improve coordination, alignment, and transparency of global health R&D efforts across U.S. agencies and with international partners. This could include establishing a whole-of-government, coordinated global health R&D strategy; improving reporting of agencies’ global health R&D activities; and incorporating R&D as a core component of existing cross-government and international health initiatives like the Global Health Security Agenda.

Support the end-to-end product development capacity of local innovators to meet the health needs of their own countries. Through new partnerships, leveraged funding, and technical assistance, the United States can support local innovators to navigate R&D barriers and turn good ideas into lifesaving technologies. Local innovation is key to developing locally appropriate products and building sustainable pathways for countries to graduate from traditional aid.

Photo Credit: Drew Hays

Photo Credit: Lucas Vasques


While we have made tremendous gains in global health over the past 20 years, millions of people worldwide are still threatened by neglected diseases and conditions and future biothreats. In 2018, TB killed 1.6 million people, surpassing deaths from HIV/AIDS. More than 1.7 million people become newly infected with HIV annually. About 3.2 billion people remain at risk for malaria with drug resistance spreading. One out of every 13 children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before the age of five. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a major crisis for the entire world, ending too many lives due to a lack of effective medical countermeasures and endangering livelihoods as a result of the public health measures necessary without a vaccine. 

Unfortunately, diseases that strike the world’s poorest offer insufficient commercial incentive to spur private sector-led R&D. This is why U.S. investment is critical to catalyze research and advance products from discovery to lifesaving technology. 

The United States has long played a leading role in R&D for global health, and this engagement has yielded tremendous benefit. U.S. support has helped generate at least 42 new global health technologies since 2000, including a child-friendly malaria drug that has saved the lives of 875,000 children and a low-cost meningitis vaccine that has virtually eliminated the disease in implementing countries and is expected to protect more than 400 million people as of 2020. U.S. support has also helped move at least 128 promising products into late-stage development, which are poised to drive further gains. Any drawback of U.S. support would jeopardize these advancements and mark a retreat from the values that define us as a nation. 

Through sustainable investment in global health R&D, we can conquer the major health challenges of our times and build a healthier, safer world for all.


COVID-19 is likely to leave slow-healing scars across the global health R&D ecosystem without additional investment. Infectious disease research has experienced major disruptions and countless clinical trials have been paused or delayed as resources have been redirected towards the pandemic. These disruptions delay new life-saving innovations and strain already tight resources. Without consistent, robust funding for global health R&D, society is unlikely to end, in our lifetimes, the world’s most pressing global health challenges. Funding for global health R&D must keep pace with our unprecedented scientific capacity as the world recovers from COVID-19 and looks towards a future where science, applied to the most important problems, can end unnecessary suffering.  


  1. Global Health Technologies Coalition  


Julien Rashid, Global Health Technologies Coalition,

Emily Conron, Global Health Technologies Coalition,



[1] Return on innovation: Why global health R&D is a smart investment for the United States.

[2] Return on innovation: Why global health R&D is a smart investment for the United States.

[3] WHO Global TB Report 2019.

[4] UNAIDS Global HIV & AIDS statistics – 2020 fact sheet.

[5]  WHO/UNICEF Report: Malaria MDG Target Achieved Amid Sharp Drop in Cases and Mortality, but 3 Billion People Remain at Risk.

[6]  Children: Improving survival and well-being – WHO fact sheet.

[7] Toward a world without meningitis. PATH.

[8] Return on innovation: Why global health R&D is a smart investment for the United States.  

[9] COVID-19 implications for life sciences R&D: Recovery and the next normal.   

[10] More than two-thirds of trials hit by COVID-19 enrollment halts, with mid-stage tests the worst affected.