Global Health Centre

Public funding of biomedical R&D: what role for public investment funds and financial markets?

Slavek Roller, Nadya Wells
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Webinar | Knowledge Network for Innovation and Access to Medicines

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The role of public funding in biomedical research and development (R&D) is a longstanding topic of interest both in the academic literature and in policy debates. The public contribution to basic science and early stages of research is well established, and more recent studies have also focused on public funding of later stages of the development process. The literature focuses on public funding of R&D through direct grants, tax incentives and the purchase of the end product by public health systems. This webinar aims to bring a new element to the debate: the role of public investment funds.

Slavek Roller will present his recently published article investigating the role of pension and state funds in financing biomedical R&D in the complex financial architecture of modern drug development. He found that public investment funds in, for example, Canada, the European Union, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, hold significant shares in pharmaceutical companies.  He will describe how the source of investment does or does not influence decision-making regarding pricing and R&D priorities and implications for current debates on access to medicines and innovation. He will also offer proposals for a strengthened role for public investment fund boards in where and how they invest their money, to ensure public benefit from the results of the R&D that they fund.



  • Slavek Roller, Doctoral Candidate at the Faculty of Economics and Business, Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Nadya Wells, Senior Research Adviser at the Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute, Geneva


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