In December 2012 The UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) held a Town Hall meeting to explore health research funding relevant to international development. Representatives from DFID, the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation presented, with the aims of the meeting to:
- Explain how funders determine their strategies and funding priorities
- Alert the audience to upcoming funding opportunities
- Encourage two-way dialogue between funders and researchers
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Trevor Mundel, president of the Gates foundation’s global health programme, said the foundation considers grant proposals on the basis of cost-effectiveness, for example, in considering whether to fund an experimental HIV/Aids treatment, Gates would compare it against male surgical circumcision which is the “most effective proven technique for preventing transmission”, according to Mundel.
Programme managers are looking for proposals from researchers who have already conducted research to reduce the risks from the current proposal. The focus of the Foundation is on productivity, and so they will only support projects where fundamental ideas have been properly thought through. “We don’t want to be investing everything in various ventures that have only got less than 5 per cent chance of being realised.”
Chris Whitty, Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Advisor at DfID advised people to lobby them if you think that they are missing something.
DfID priorities are towards research projects will have an impact in 5-10 years. Research topics are a combination of long-term DFID priorities, plus priorities of the government, currently covering:
- neglected tropical diseases
- women’s health
There will soon be a joint call in health systems research together with the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.
Mark Palmer, Head of International Strategy at MRC stated that diabetes will be the focus of the next call of the Global Alliance for Chronic Disease. The Global Alliance for Chronic Disease comprises of public funders from Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, the UK and the US. There are also plans for a health systems research planin March 2013.
Mark aslo stated that ESRC, DFID, Wellcome and the MRC have been working to develop a joint call since their workshop in December 2011. “Over the last year we’ve been working together to try and pin down exactly what we want to see in that call and get the funding together,” said Palmer. “Perhaps in the beginning of 2013, perhaps in the first quarter, we’ll be able to say more about how our thinking has been developing and what we’re likely to be able to do.”
Jimmy Whitworth, head of international activities, said that although the Wellcome Trsuts is happy with the quality and quantity of applications submitted to the joint global health trials scheme, but that it is too early to judge success as the first grantees were only announced in May 2012.
The Wellcome Trust is seeking more funding for another three years of the joint global health trials scheme, with MRC and DFID. It is also preparing a joint call with DFID and Save the Children on humanitarian disasters, expected in 2013. Also on the horizon is a ‘pump priming’ programme for research that connects the environment, nutrition and health, which is expected to be announced next year. The trust’s work on public health is growing, with new staff members and an expanding panel.
Videos from the event are available on the UKCDS website.