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RESEARCH into HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis swallows almost 80 per cent of funds invested by governments, philanthropists and pharmaceutical companies, ignoring many diseases that kill millions of people in developing countries.
The first worldwide survey of funding for neglected diseases, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that $3.8 billion of private and public funds were invested in research and development of new products in 2007.
However, many serious diseases remain significantly underfunded - including pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases, which collectively received less than 6 per cent of global investment into new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
Five diseases - leprosy, Buruli ulcer, trachoma, rheumatic fever and typhoid - each received less than $15 million, or 0.4 per cent. Two key organisations - the US National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation - donated 60 per cent of the $3.8 billion. Some wealthy OECD countries provided little or no funding at all.
The study was conducted by the George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney and its lead author, Dr Mary Moran, said many diseases were excluded on the grounds that incentives for research and development existed only in rich countries and therefore products were developed and targeted at Western needs.
"Some of the biggest or cruellest killers like pneumonia and Buruli ulcer have few advocates, no global funds and nowhere near the attention they deserve," Dr Moran said.
The report, published today by the Public Library of Science, found research funding had little correlation with the burden of disease.