Fighting Neglected and Poverty-Related Diseases

In the poverty stricken regions of the world, many people suffer from infectious diseases. Such diseases often have particularly serious consequences and remain the most common cause of death in these regions.

The best-known examples are HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. These three diseases often attract attention even in rich countries. The BMBF provides funding for three product development partnerships (PDPs), which support selected international non-profit organizations in their cooperation with pharmaceutical companies and research institutes to develop medications, vaccines, and diagnostics for the fight against neglected diseases.

Industrialized countries are investing significant amounts of money in research in order to be able to fight these three diseases more effectively. However, other diseases which mainly affect the world’s poorest are often neglected by research in industrialized nations, as they are not particularly relevant to highly developed countries. This means that there are few incentives for the pharmaceutical industry to develop new drugs or other products. Such diseases are known as neglected tropical diseases. They include dengue fever, sleeping sickness, and various worm diseases.

As a result, industrialized nations have a special responsibility in this area. The United Nations formulated eight Millennium Development Goals in 2000 with the aim of fighting poverty across the world. To reach these goals, industrialized nations need to invest more in researching and fighting neglected and poverty-related diseases. Their commitment can help improve the health of all people.

On behalf of Germany as a whole, the BMBF is facing up to this responsibility and providing more funding for research into neglected and poverty-related diseases.

The BMBF presented its funding concept for "Neglected and Poverty-Related Diseases" in May 2011. With this funding concept, the BMBF has defined a new strategic focus and described its plans to continuously increase research funding for these diseases. The Ministry’s efforts to support research to improve the health of people in poor countries are as varied as the diseases themselves. The support of Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) is an important element of the funding concept. PDPs are international non-profit organizations which pursue the goal of developing prevention methods, diagnostic agents or drugs to fight neglected and poverty-related diseases. They bring together the knowledge of science, industry, and civil society. PDPs are financed by public and private charitable funding providers. The resulting products are made available to patients at a very low price.

Up to 20 million euros will be available for the BMBF funding measure "Development of products for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neglected and poverty related diseases" over the course of four years. In view of global challenges, this money is mainly to be used to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health (Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5). That is why the Ministry will put a special emphasis on the development of products designed to prevent, diagnose or treat two groups of diseases: neglected tropical diseases (such as dengue, Chagas disease, and worm diseases) and diseases that mainly affect children in poor countries. The latter group includes bacterial pneumonia / meningitis, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria. Products developed specifically for children under the age of five and/or for pregnant women will be given priority.

The BMBF is also strengthening the German research scene in the area of neglected and poverty-related diseases. German research capacities are being built up and expanded in a targeted way, mainly through the establishment of three new junior research groups. This funding measure focuses particularly on the establishment of sustainable cooperation with partners from the affected countries. This funding measure will complement ongoing efforts, particularly those to support clinical trials to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa under the EDCTP (European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership).