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Research, technological development and innovation in neglected diseases: new strategies adopted by Brazilian funding agencies

Date: Thursday 1 November 10.45–12.15
Source: Forum 11
Authors: Suzanne Jacob Serruya, Director, Department of Science and Technology, Secretariat of Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs, Ministry of Health, Brazil
with Carlos Morel and Moisés Goldbaum


The Brazilian Government, through the Ministries of Health, Science and Technology, and Education, organized the 1st National Conference on Science and Technology for Health in 1994 and in 2004 the 2nd National Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Health. These conferences led to the creation of the Department of Science and Technology and soon after the Science, Technology and Strategic Inputs Secretariat with the mission to fund and implement strategic actions in science and technology to feed the needs of the Brazilian National Health System (SUS).

In 2006, it was decided to launch the Neglected Diseases Research and Development Program. Consequently, US$ 10 million was allocated from the Ministry of Health budget for a two-year programme to be implemented and managed in partnership with the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, including the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.

A call for applications of letters of intent (LoI) was discussed and approved in a 3-day meeting in Rio de Janeiro in May 2006, involving 60 participants from the research and development, public health and decision-making areas. From the 320 LoI received by August 2006, 180 were requested to submit full proposals. All LoI and final proposals were peer-reviewed through regular National Council procedures and 76 proposals were approved in December for funding during the 2007­2008 biennium.

The Neglected Diseases Program represented significant changes from the classical funding mechanisms: (1) health research and development priorities discussed and set in advance by scientists, public health experts and decision-makers following the guidelines and recommendations of the 2nd National Conference; (2) peer review based on health needs and scientific merit; (3) a clear focus on neglected diseases and network formation; (4) budgets of up to US$ 200 000 per project; (5) 30% of the total budget allocated to the three geographical regions of Brazil most afflicted by neglected diseases.

The final evaluation of the programme is expected in 2009. However, the programme has already been successful in planning, launching and implementing the decisions from the national conferences. This will contribute to the enhancement of the Ministry of Health's active role strengthening research and development activities and innovation in health.