[Ip-health] 1st UK University Global Health Research League Table published today reveals that only a few top institutions commit a substantial proportion of their research budgets to global health issues

Dzintars Gotham dzintarsgotham at gmail.com
Wed Jan 21 05:40:14 PST 2015

First UK University Global Health Research League Table published today reveals that only a few top institutions commit a substantial proportion of their research budgets to global health issues


Oxford University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London, University College London and University of Liverpool top the ranking




London, 21 January, 2015: Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and Medsin-UK today launch the first UK University Global Health Research League Table in the Houses of Parliament. The league table ranks the UK’s 25 top-funded universities according to their commitment to global health research, using publicly-available and university-reported data.


The League Table reveals that only a few top institutions invest a substantial proportion of their research money in global health research, with Oxford University, LSHTM, and Imperial College London, University College London and University of Liverpool leading the ranking. Outside of the top five, universities undertake little global health research as a proportion of research budgets. Eight universities were awarded a grade D or below for their commitment to global health research. Notably, this included University of Cambridge, who are doing considerably less than other traditionally top universities, ranking 15th in the League Table.


Medsin-UK and UAEM found that 74% and 78% of global health research and neglected disease research done in UK universities, respectively, happens in the five top universities in each category. Of the 25 leading UK research universities, only seven have committed to making their discoveries accessible in developing countries. Universities that pioneer affordability, such as Oxford and UCL, reported using these provisions in at least half of all agreements licensing medical discoveries.


Despite widespread university policies aimed at making research freely available online, the results of these efforts seem to have had mixed success. On average, 82% of research output across the 25 universities could be classified as free-access, however some universities were as low as 60%.


“Most universities are not doing enough to tackle the the needs of the poorest. Universities should take seriously their ability to do work in areas that are neglected by profit-seeking companies,” said Dzintars Gotham, co-lead of the Global Health Research League Table. “Sixteen of the top twenty-five universities have not committed to sharing their medical discoveries in a way that promotes access. Despite most research funding coming from government grants, medicines developed in universities can be priced out of reach of patients in the developing world. Policies on how discoveries are patented are crucial in avoiding this. Universities have a duty to maximise the effects of cutting-edge research performed by our best scientists."


“The first ‘UK Global Health Research League Table’ reflects a growing global movement to understand the effects of academic biomedical research on access to essential medicines, spreading from North America to Europe,” said Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health.


“Now more than ever students, faculty, and broader university communities need to hold their institutions accountable for implementing policies that will increase access to life-saving essential medicines and medical technologies, for conducting research on the world’s most neglected health needs, and for empowering communities worldwide to strive to do the same. The League Table is a key advocacy tool for driving forward this change.”


Universities have been graded using criteria measuring research funding and output, including the level of investment in global health research and research in neglected diseases that affect primarily the world’s poorest, whether they share new discoveries in ways that ensure medicines reach people in developing countries at affordable prices, and how much of their research is freely available online.


The UK is a global leader in research and has a long tradition of demonstrating the power of public research. Recent world university rankings showed that four of the world’s top six universities are in the UK. Jonathan Meldrum, coordinator of the University Global Health Research League Table, said: “Our universities are in the unique position to work in the public interest. Their mission is to maximise societal gain through their research. For universities to live up to their aspirations, they need to lead in equitable research. By investing in the areas of greatest need and sharing the benefits of our research, universities can ensure our research successes have the greatest impact possible.”


While more than 30% of new drugs are developed at universities, price is a persistent barrier to accessing medication in the developing world and, increasingly, in high-income countries. Policies that make research publicly available and medicines affordable in developing countries are key to having a greater impact on global health. Universities can use socially-responsible licensing to make sure that medicines, vaccines and diagnostics they develop are affordable in the developing world, while maintaining profit incentives. Policies for using this approach have been adopted by over 40 universities worldwide, including Harvard, MIT and, most recently, University College London.


These policies are an easy and cost-effective way of maximising the global effect of drugs developed in universities. Nobel Laureate Sir John Sulston, who endorses the League Table, said: "By making biomedical discoveries open to all wherever possible, by ensuring that they are licensed in a socially responsible way and by addressing needs of the poorest people, a university can make a unique contribution to global health.  Nobody loses from such policies - everyone wins - and universities that adopt them become stronger and more attractive to the most able students.  The University Global Health Research League Table is a great way to track progress and to draw attention to best practice."



For further information or to arrange an interview contact:

Dzintars Gotham, 07908178639, dgotham at globalhealthgrades.org.uk

Jonathan Meldrum, 07772975022, jmeldrum at globalhealthgrades.org.uk


Notes to editor

Medsin-UK is a student-led network and registered charity tackling global and local health inequalities through education, advocacy and community action – http://www.medsin.org

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines is an international student-led NGO that believes our universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to improve global access to affordable medicines – http://www.uaem.org

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