Types of Research
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The share of private sector funding, relative to public sector funding, for drug, vaccine, and diagnostic research & development (R&D) differs considerably across diseases. Private sector investment in overall health R&D exceeds $150 billion annually, but is largely concentrated on non-communicable chronic diseases with only an estimated $5.9 billion focused on "global health", targeting diseases that primarily affect low and middle-income countries (LMICs). We examine the evidence for five specific disincentives to private sector global health R&D investment: scientific uncertainty, weak policy environments, limited revenues and market uncertainty, high fixed and sunk costs, and downstream rents from imperfect markets. Though all five may affect estimates of net returns from an investment decision, they are worth examining separately as each calls for a different intervention or remediation to change behavior.
The concept of global public goods represents a framework for organizing and financing international cooperation in global health research and development (R&D). Advances in scientific and clinical knowledge produced by biomedical R&D can be considered public goods insofar as they can be used repeatedly (non-rival consumption) and it is difficult or costly to exclude non-payers from gaining access (non-excludable). This paper considers the public good characteristics of biomedical R&D in global health and describes the theoretical and observed factors in the allocation R&D funding by public, private, and philanthropic sources.