Tuesday, February 19, 2008

$1.2 billion in research ... with what results?

Dear Colleagues

In a recent New York Times article, the following:
The Gates Foundation has poured about $1.2 billion into malaria research since 2000. In the late 1990s, as little as $84 million a year was spent — largely by the United States military and health institutes, along with European governments and foundations. Drug makers had largely abandoned the field. (China was developing a drug, artemisinin, that is now the cornerstone of treatment.)

I was aware that the Gates Foundation was a big source of funding for malaria research, but had no idea that the funding level was in excess of $1 billion.

I was aware that malaria funding was very small prior to 2000, but again, had no idea that it was this small.

Almost anything that scales up this fast is prone to problems in the area of accounting and accountability, and it is likely that such problems abound in the malaria health subsector.

The Tr-Ac-Net Organization routinely seeks to relate resources used with results accomplished and it would be interesting to do this in the area of malaria research. While it is clear that there is more activity in the area of malaria research ... it is far less clear that the results up to now have substantial value. There is more research. There are more studies. But is knowledge moving forward? Is the research making it possible to reduce the burden of malaria more rapidly and at lower cost?

I would have thought that by now there should be measurable results that would give the interested public a good feeling about the use of these resources. Rather, however, I get the impression that the needed performance metrics do not exist. As a former corporate cost accountant and CFO, of course, I am appalled ... but no longer surprised.


Peter Burgess

No comments: