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Pain Points and Potential: How COVID-19 is Reshaping Global Health R&D

Pain Points and Potential: How COVID-19 is Reshaping Global Health R&D explores how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting research and development (R&D) of vaccines, treatments, and other tools for neglected diseases and conditions, examining both immediate impacts and long-term trends and challenges that could alter the sector in the coming years. Based on a thematic analysis of 22 interviews with researchers and thought leaders, the report finds that while the pandemic has elevated the sector by demonstrating the value of investment in infectious disease research, it has also profoundly set back progress by disrupting research and redirecting resources and expertise away from R&D for long-standing global health challenges.

The first section of the report summarizes qualitative reports of the immediate disruptions the pandemic has caused to lab operations, supply chains, clinical trials, funding allocations, and US agency operations and underscores how, within the broader life sciences sector, R&D for neglected diseases has been particularly negatively impacted because of vulnerable funding lines, redirection of expertise to COVID-19 research, and dependence on international collaborations. The second section identifies ecosystem trends likely to persist beyond the crisis stage of COVID-19 which may reshape the sector, including the securitization of global health; eroding public trust in science; diminishing US global leadership; movements for social justice; advances in research methodologies, technologies, and collaborative approaches; and renewed political will for research investments.

The report concludes that the most influential factor in determining how the sector emerges from the COVID-19 crisis will be the choices of policymakers. Accordingly, this report is intended to inform Congress, the executive branch, and other stakeholders as they make policy and budget decisions that affect the future of R&D for neglected diseases and conditions.


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