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Tuberculosis: Drug Resistance

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 169479, tabled on 3 September 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to provide financial support for research to small and medium-sized enterprises developing new tools for the (a) prevention, (b) diagnosis and (c) treatment of drug-resistant TB.

Answered on

11 September 2018

The Department funds research mainly through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). As the most integrated clinical research system in the world, we drive research from bench to bedside for the benefit of patients and the economy. The NIHR funds high quality research to improve health, trains and supports health researchers, provides world-class research facilities, works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all, and involves patients and the public at every step.

The NIHR’s research programmes provide a flexible source of funding for researchers, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the aim of improving public and patient health and care. Our Invention for Innovation (i4i) and Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programmes accept applications from SMEs as lead applicants collaborating with a National Health Service and/or academic partner. Other NIHR programmes accept applications from SMEs as co-applicants.

Through the NIHR, the Government is also investing in research infrastructure in the NHS to ensure that we have the right facilities and people for a thriving research environment. The NIHR enables SMEs to access experts and develop collaborations within our world-leading infrastructure, supporting them to translate fundamental biomedical research into the clinical setting, run studies in the NHS and develop new treatments, diagnostics and medical devices.

The NIHR welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including drug resistant tuberculosis (TB); it is not usual practice to ring-fence funds for particular topics or conditions. Applications are subject to peer review and judged in open competition, with awards being made on the basis of the importance of the topic to patients and health and care services, value for money and scientific quality.

Research on TB and drug resistant TB is supported by the Department nationally through the NIHR and internationally through support for research programmes delivered through other Government departments.

Currently, a major part of the NIHR’s contribution to TB research is the Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) on Respiratory Infections at Imperial College London. This started in 1 April 2014 and has received funding of £4.21 million. The HPRU is a collaboration between Public Health England, Imperial College and Oxford University and undertakes research on diagnostics, surveillance, treatment and management of TB.

Globally, the Department for Health and Social Care supports research on TB by SMEs through the Department for International Development (DFID). DFID is the UK Government’s lead to the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) a not-for-profit product-development-partnership dedicated to the discovery, development and delivery of better, faster-acting and affordable TB drugs; and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), which includes TB as one of its priority diseases. In 2017, the Department also provided financial support for research with a £4.5 million one off contribution through its Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget to the TB Alliance. The TB Alliance and FIND work with many different partners in the public, private (i.e. industry including SMEs), academic, and philanthropic sectors in a wide range of countries across the globe to develop new treatments and diagnostics for TB, including drug sensitive and drug resistant TB.