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University of Southampton to map impact of infectious diseases against research spending

Published: 22 July 2015
Dr Stuart Clarke

Scientists at the University of Southampton are set to analyse research investments into infectious disease research, particularly pneumonia and maternal and neonatal infections, after receiving over £370,000 in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. By studying how research funding is allocated relative to the global burden of disease, and assessing the outputs and impact of research, the resulting data will be used to better inform future investment decisions.

Pneumonia and maternal and neonatal infectious diseases (such as influenza, tetanus and respiratory syncytial virus) have been cited as priority areas by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Gates Foundation. The 2013 Global Burden of Disease study estimated there to be 800,000 pneumonia deaths annually worldwide and the disease continues to be the number one infectious killer of children under the age of five, with more deaths than HIV, TB and malaria combined. This is despite the existence of lifesaving treatments and prevention measures, such as effective vaccines.

“The high disease burden, particularly amongst young and elderly populations in poor to middle income countries, could potentially be addressed by further investment in research,” says Dr Stuart Clarke from the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine, who is leading the study.

“We will quantify the contribution of research funds that these infections receive compared to research involving other pathogens that are important in human health. This will give policy makers a comprehensive picture of where there’s been a lack of funding relative to the impact of the disease and help to set global research investment priorities,” Dr Clarke adds.

Research investment in these diseases has been poorly documented and global R&D investments are not systematically measured or tracked, meaning there are few cross-funder analyses that show the impact and relevance of funding decisions.

The Research Investments in Global Health (ResIn) study will comprehensively map the research investment to institutions in the G20 countries. Alongside disease burden data, it will chart spending within disease areas, highlight the investment by each country (relative to the disease burden), demonstrate the impact of research funding and highlight research gaps globally and nationally.

Based within the University’s Faculty of Medicine, the study also contributes to the Global Health Research Institute, headed by co-applicant Professor Marie-Louise Newell (also of Southampton). The findings will be compiled in an open-access database, creating a wealth of information for all funders, policymakers and researchers to view and apply to their own work.

Co-applicant and senior research fellow, Michael Head explains: “The database will allow funders to identify existing research in areas of mutual interest, help researchers identify collaborators, expertise and infrastructure, and support high-level policymakers (such as the WHO R&D Observatory) to identify funding trends and the relative value of investments in their areas of interest.”

The two year study will start in October 2015.

Faculty of Medicine

 

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