Most of the top-funded universities for medical science are not doing enough to address the needs of the world’s poorest people in terms of public health research, according to a new ranking.
The first UK University Global Health Research League Table (see below) finds that only five of the 25 institutions that receive the most research grant income from the Medical Research Council invest a substantial proportion of their research funding into public health research.
Dzintars Gotham, one of the leaders of the league table, said that “universities should take seriously” their ability to work in areas that are neglected by profit-seeking companies.
The league table, produced by student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and charity and student network Medsin-UK, ranks the top 25 universities, based on research MRC grant income from 2010-11, the most recent year with publically available data, they say.
The ranking takes into account each university’s level of investment in global health and neglected disease research, any measures in place to share discoveries with the developing world and the extent to which their research is freely available online.
The University of Oxford came out top of the table, followed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London. Just seven of the institutions have made commitments to make their discoveries accessible in developing countries, the report finds.
Mr Gotham said: “Most universities are not doing enough to tackle the needs of the poorest. Universities should take seriously their ability to do work in areas that are neglected by profit-seeking companies.”
He added: “Despite most research funding coming from government grants, medicines developed in universities can be priced out of reach of patients in the developing world…Universities have a duty to maximise the effects of cutting-edge research performed by our best scientists.”
Jonathan Meldrum, co-ordinator of the University Global Health Research League Table, said that universities are in a “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,” he said.