Public funding for transformative drugs: the case of sofosbuvir

Drug Discov Today. 2021 Jan;26(1):273-281. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2020.09.024. Epub 2020 Oct 1.


The approval of sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) in 2013 transformed chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) care, but its high cost was criticized in part because of reports of substantial public involvement in its development. We developed a methodology to assess the public's contribution through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in developing sofosbuvir. Using key terms from the timeline of sofosbuvir, we identified articles in PubMed; linked them to federal funding using the NIH RePORTER; reviewed the title, organization, and investigator of each resulting award for relatedness; and converted related awards to 2018 US dollars. Of 6043 unique awards, we identified 29 that were directly (US$7.7 million) and 110 that were indirectly (US$53.2 million) related awards made to major academic institutions and companies engaged in the development of the drug. These findings indicate that public funding had a key role in developing sofosbuvir, with an estimated US$60.9 million provided in NIH funding.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't