Tool to assess disparity between resources dedicated to a disease and its relative burden on society


The tool, called the Research Opportunity Index (ROI), measures disparities between resources dedicated to a disease and its relative burden on society.

ROI identifies diseases that receive a disproportionate share of biomedical resources, thus representing opportunities for high-impact investment or for the realignment of existing resources. It is designed to provide an unbiased, data-driven framework to help scientific and political communities assess resource investment and identify unmet medical needs. 

It estimates the societal burden of 1,400 medical conditions in the U.S. over a 12-year timespan, based on frequency of diagnosis and healthcare insurance costs, as well as research publications, awarded grants, and clinical trials for each condition. The index then calculates misalignments, allowing the team to create an “investment portfolio” of the resources dedicated to each disease, relative to its burden on the U.S. healthcare system.  

“We liken investment in understanding disease and discovering remedies to trades in a financial market. Research attention and funding, as traced by articles, grants and clinical trials, constitute subjective ‘prices’ that scientists and society pay for research on disease-specific therapies.”

The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, GlaxoSmithKline, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


Treatment cost, as measured by insurance claims records, are taken as a proxy for for “disease burden on society”. (correlation coefficient: 0.4-0.5)

The study is based only on US data and therefore only identify neglected health needs in the USA.


“The misalignment of resources in biomedical research could be likened to poor budgeting of household finances,” said senior study author Andrey Rzhetsky, PhD, professor of genetic medicine and senior fellow at the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology at the University of Chicago. “It would be bad to spend all your money on food, for example, and have nothing for rent. Resources are finite, and attention to each problem ideally should be proportional to the need.”

Source: Yao L, Li Y, Ghosh S, Evans JA, Rzhetsky A. Health ROI as a measure of misalignment of biomedical needs and resources. Nat Biotech [Internet]. Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.; 2015 Aug;33(8):807–11. Available from:


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