Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Microbicides – Where are they Now? How much have we spent?

I was just sent this information (thanks to Becky!) about a new round of funding for microbicides, which comes on the heels of promising results from a trial of the PRO2000 microbicide candidate. We covered this a couple of years ago and at the time I said – the potential of this drug is revolutionary. With microbicides there was great excitement and hope, then there was failure and now there is some maturity. Okay, maybe I am overstating the case, the take home point is that we still don’t have a product and this is not cheap, easy, or quick. Developing a drug is complicated, involves huge risk, can take decades and is highly uncertain. Let’s review the drug development time line again for those of you not familiar – the graph below gives the most simplistic picture:


The early microbicide discussions took place almost 15 years ago (International Working Group on Vaginal Microbicides, source). Over half that amount of time, from 2000-2007, $1.1 Billion has already been invested in microbicide R&D! It takes anywhere from $200M to $1 Billion to bring a single novel drug to market. Let’s hope one of these compounds works and makes it through phase III. But how much will we have spent? $2 Billion, $3 billion? If it works, it will have been worth the money, however, we must ask if we took the most efficient financial route to get to the end point and if there were better financial models – that is a valid question.


2 Responses

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  1. The model is different, but getting from A to Z should cost roughly the same amount of money by a single organization. I agree that multiple efforts are good (competition and probability wise), but at what point do you hurt yourself, at point is there over dilution? For a single drug entity like microbicides that is almost completely being developed for social good, wouldn’t it be better to have only a handful of teams that pool the funds and pursue drug development? Also given that this is probably one of first drugs being developed by the NGO/public sector there are not limitless funds or access to capital. If you picked 20 leading drug development teams and asked them what is the best ratio of funding to entities I wonder if they would say 44 entities is in the right ballpark?


    March 2, 2009 at 5:34 pm

  2. These numbers reflect the aggregate investment based on an involvement of many players, including 44 commercial entities that participated in microbicide R&D in 2007, according to the report. In addition, there have been a host of funders; e.g., NIH, USAID, and DFID were the top 3 funders of microbicide research in 2007. My assumption, based on a naive understanding of drug development, is that this model is somewhat different from commercial development for industrialized markets. (Please correct me if I am wrong.)

    Does such a model automatically register a higher price tag? Even if it does, doesn’t the presence of multiple parallel efforts increase the likelihood of success?


    March 2, 2009 at 12:39 am

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