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Health  2024 

Unequal Distribution of Innovation Efforts for Neglected Tropical Diseases: The Role of Funding Evaluation Criteria

DOI: 10.4236/health.2024.165034, PP. 490-520

Keywords: Neglected Tropical Diseases, Funding Decision, Evaluation Criteria, Health Research Funding, Research Impact

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Abstract:

Background: International research and innovation efforts for neglected tropical diseases have increased in recent decades due to disparities in overall health research funding in relation to global burden of disease. However, within the field of neglected tropical diseases some seem far more neglected than others. In this research the aim is to investigate the distribution of resources and efforts, as well as the mechanisms that underpin funding allocation for neglected tropical diseases. Methodology: A systematic literature review was conducted to establish a comprehensive overview of known indicators for innovation efforts related to a wide range of neglected tropical diseases. Articles were selected based on a subjective evaluation of their relevance, the presence of original data, and the breadth of their scope. This was followed by thirteen in-depth open-ended interviews with representatives of private, public and philanthropic funding organizations, concerning evaluation criteria for funding research proposals. Results: The findings reveal a large difference in the extent to which the individual diseases are neglected with notable differences between absolute and relative efforts. Criteria used in the evaluation of research proposals relate to potential impact, the probability of success and strategic fit. Private organizations prioritize strategic fit and economic impact; philanthropic organizations prioritize short-term societal impact; and public generally prioritize the probability of success by accounting for follow-up funding and involvement of industry. Funding decisions of different types of organizations are highly interrelated. Conclusions: This study shows that the evaluation of funding proposals introduces and retains unequal funding distribution, reinforcing the relative neglect of diseases. Societal impact is the primary rationale for funding but application of it as a funding criterion is associated with significant challenges. Furthermore, current application of evaluation criteria leads to a primary focus on short-term impact. Through current practice, the relatively most neglected diseases will remain so, and a long-term strategy is needed to resolve this.

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