COVID-19 Vaccine R&D Investments

*Last updated on July 8, 2021

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The development of safe, efficacious vaccines to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic is an issue of global public concern.  A clearer picture of who has invested, how much, when, and where, is critical to understand better the distribution of risks and potential rewards, to shed light on how R&D investments may influence who gets access to the vaccines that result, and to inform future approaches to vaccine R&D.

We have gathered data from different publicly available sources on investments for COVID-19 vaccines R&D. In addition, in order to estimate the magnitude of the advanced purchase agreements (APAs) signed between countries and pharmaceutical companies to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines, we have used the data from our COVID-19 Vaccine Access dataset.

A selection of visualizations summarizing the data are presented below; the full dataset is available for download here, along with its associated README file.

Key Research Findings

US and Germany lead R&D funding. The EU and the US lead APA arrangements

The US and Germany are by far the largest investors in vaccine R&D, followed by a relatively small number of other (mostly) high-income countries, with China being the exception. Public funding represents the vast majority of the data collected (90.69% of the USD 6.6bn tracked). The dataset does not include any specific numbers from pharmaceutical companies, which have not disclosed specific figures regarding their R&D investments; private sector investments may be underestimated in this chart, but it is not clear by how much. In an attempt to fully capture all spending that could be categorized as investments in R&D, we included APAs (defined as those agreements signed before vaccine approval by a Stringent Regulatory Authority (SRA), and for which there is data on the amount invested), as these were made before there was certainty in safety and efficacy of the vaccines and could be understood as an additional incentive that reduces business risk in the R&D stage. When considering these APAs, the US and the EU account for the majority of the funding (USD 41.6bn of the USD 52bn tracked).

Figure 1. Source of COVID-19 vaccine R&D investments, by source country and funder type 

Private companies were primary recipients

Funding went primarily to private companies, as shown in Figure 2. CEPI’s funds represent 16.86% of the total invested (when APAs are not taken into account). As contributions to CEPI are primarily from the public sector (97.18%), nearly all investments in our dataset were from public funds. The public sector and CEPI invested USD 5.6 billion in developing COVID-19 vaccines, and more than USD 51.1 billion when considering APAs as an incentive for development. Private companies (including the AstraZeneca/Oxford partnership) received 95.06% of the funding (when excluding APAs) and 99.4% (APAs included). 

Figure 2. Main recipients of COVID-19 vaccine R&D investments, by funder type

Figure 3.1. Vaccine R&D Funding Flow: direct funding, secondary funding and funding to intermediaries (in millions USD)

Figure 3.2. Vaccine R&D Funding Flow: Advanced purchase agreements (in millions USD)

Figure 3.3 Vaccine R&D Funding Flow

These figures show the COVID-19 vaccine development investment flow. Figure 3.1 shows the investments made from funders to R&D implementers and intermediaries. Intermediaries (CEPI and IVI) are shown in the second column. Figure 3.2 shows those actors (mainly national and international entities) involved in APAs. Figure 3.3 illustrates the full scale and flow of investments involved in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, merging Figure 3.1 and 3.2. R&D implementers, such as research institutions and pharmaceutical companies are represented in the middle column in Figure 3.3, as recipients of R&D investments coming from the left side of the figure, and as recipients of APAs recipients from the right side of the figure.  For national public entities, the name of the funder country was used to simplify graphic representation. 

Earliest investors in R&D were US and CEPI, earliest APAs were US and COVAX

Investments to develop COVID-19 vaccines were made at different times during 2020 and 2021. The US and CEPI moved the fastest, with the first investments made in Q1 2020. As candidates approached clinical trials and approvals, different APAs were signed aiming to further incentivize development. Again, the US and another international platform (COVAX through an earlier agreement between Gavi and AstraZeneca) started signing agreements earlier, followed by the EU, UK and Israel. Data on APAs relies on our website's Vaccine Arrangement tracker, and includes those agreements signed before vaccines were approved by an SRA and for which there is information on the amounts invested.

Figure 4. Investment timeline by country and type of funding

R&D recipients concentrated in a few countries

R&D investments for COVID-19 vaccines are concentrated in a relatively small number of high-income countries, with Western European countries, the US, and Canada accounting for most of the funds received. India, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia are important exceptions. However, there is likely to be a significant amount of data missing, as we did not find specific figures on R&D investments in countries where vaccine candidates are known to have been or are currently in development (e.g., Cuba, Russia or Italy).

Figure 5. Geographic distribution of COVID-19 vaccine R&D recipients

Countries tend to invest in research institutions from their own countries

Most countries have invested in companies or research institutions from their own countries. In the case of the European Union, investments were made in European institutions. Although the US has invested in institutions from different countries, it might be a misleading conclusion as one of them is Janssen, the Belgian company owned by Johnson & Johnson (US). CEPI has invested in initiatives from 9 different countries, which makes its portfolio the most geographically diverse.

Figure 6. Number and location of recipients per public funder location

Public Consultation - European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)

As part of the public consultation process opened by the European Commission concerning the creation of a European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), the research team provided an analysis of the data available in this webpage, aiming to shed light on the current role of the European Union and its Member States in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, and its potential to ensure that future health challenges are tackled equitably within and beyond European borders. 

Other resources

For a more comprehensive picture of the COVID-19 vaccine landscape, our team has been tracking vaccine purchase agreements and donations. An analysis of the data and dataset are available here.

For other useful sources of data and analysis on this topic, see the Policy Cures Research COVID-19 R&D tracker, which has been tracking similar information.

 

For more resources on COVID-19 research and development, intellectual property and access, and pricing, procurement, distribution and manufacturing, see our COVID-19 Data Sources page.

Notes About the Data

Sources and methodology

Information on R&D investments is collected from publicly available sources, including news, reports, academic articles, and data repositories (Policy Cures Research COVID-19 R&D tracker, ACT-Accelerator Tracker). 

Data for APAs comes from the COVID-19 Vaccine Access tracker in our website. In order to qualify as an APA, the agreement needed to be reported on a date prior to vaccine approval (emergency approval included) by an SRA. Only those agreements with data on the amount invested were included. The total amount invested was calculated based on the number of doses (including contract extensions) and the price per dose estimations calculated in our Vaccine Access website. When more than one SRAs had approved the vaccine candidate the earliest date was taken.

When currency was not reported in USD, it was converted using the annualized currency conversion rate for 2020.

Inclusion criteria for this dataset were:

  1. Each funding announcement or commitment should have an identifiable recipient and be directed towards the development of vaccine candidates. This excludes funding directed to basic research, supply of vaccines or technology transfers. The analysis assumes that advanced purchase agreements act as an additional incentive that reduces business risk in the R&D stage.

  2. The period of analysis defined for this database starts in January 2020 to the present. As new funding information is found, it will be incorporated into the database and made publicly available on this repository

Data limitations

This dataset relies on public disclosure of R&D investments for COVID-19 vaccine. Given the changing nature of the R&D landscape, the different definitions applied in the funding agreements and the sensitive nature of pharmaceutical R&D investments, the data presented in this database may contain inaccuracies, be incomplete or be out of date.

 

Both R&D investments and APAs represented in the figures might include investments to scale-up manufacturing capacity, and some APAs might also include investments to accelerate clinical development. However, due to the lack of transparency on the contents of the agreements, it was not possible to differentiate the different types of investments within one contract or agreement. Including contract extensions could overestimate the pull effect for extensions after SRA approval.

 

Pharmaceutical industry investments are likely to be underreported given the lack of publicly available data. Similarly, investment data coming from some countries may be underreported.

 

The data collected shows R&D investments and/or commitments to invest, but it does not show current disbursements of the funding. Additionally, it does not differentiate between grants, loans or other types of funding agreements.

 

Data searches were conducted in English. Information published in other languages on R&D investments has not been included, and such data is likely to have been underreported.

Download Dataset

 

The dataset and graphics will be updated when new relevant information is found and/or new analyses are performed. Given that the dataset relies on publicly available sources, it may contain inaccuracies, be incomplete, or be out of date.

Please contact us with comments and suggestions at globalhealthresearch@graduateinstitute.ch.

Suggested citation: Global Health Centre. 2021. COVID-19 Vaccines R&D Investments. Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Retrieved from: knowledgeportalia.org/covid19-r-d-funding

Adrián Alonso Ruiz is the lead researcher for this initiative, responsible for data collection, curation, visualization and analysis. Surabhi Agarwal, Anna Bezruki and Marcela Vieira are contributing to data visualization and analysis. Suerie Moon is supervising the research and analysis.

For media inquiries please contact Nora Sada, Communications Officer for the Global Health Centre at nora.sada@graduateinstitute.ch.

This work is available open access and distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. Third party material are not included.

 
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.