Over the last century, scientific and technological innovation has led to unprecedented improvements in health outcomes—yet research and development (R&D) investments and progress to address health threats has been uneven. Commercial R&D has focused where investors can expect substantial financial returns: rich countries, the diseases that affect them, and high-tech solutions designed for the richest and most sophisticated systems. Despite supplemental funding from philanthropic and government grants, R&D to address many leading causes of death and disability—especially those that primarily affect low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) or insure against future risk—has been consistently underfunded relative to potential health gain. This implies that many untapped opportunities remain to dramatically improve global health and welfare via biomedical innovation.
In this paper, we report the results of a horizon-scanning exercise to source opportunities for global health R&D investment—that is, high-value potential biomedical innovations which are currently underfunded but which could be transformative for health, quality of life, and health security in LMICs and around the world. Drawing from a literature review and expert interviews with researchers, economists, funders, advocates, and implementers, we lay out an expansive and high-promise (though non-comprehensive) biomedical innovation agenda for global health spanning the unfinished MDG agenda; non-communicable diseases; and global health security. We conclude with a discussion of implications for research, funding, and practice.
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