Pneumonia continues to be one of the world’s ‘big killers’, with around 1 million people dying of this disease each year. Most of the deaths are in young children in poorer parts of the world, but pneumonia is also responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the UK in predominantly more elderly populations.

There are significant gaps in our knowledge in terms of how to tackle the burdens of pneumonia, and this is an area where research can help. Research will allow us to develop new tools and products (such as vaccines and antibiotics) that help prevent and cure patients, and can also provide information on how best to manage patients who develop pneumonia, especially in ‘resource-poor’ settings where there are few hospitals and poor facilities.

The UK is a big contributor to global health research, but our analyses of UK research funding trends shows that the amounts spent on pneumonia have been quite low, relative to the worldwide number of deaths. There is, for example, greater ‘investment per global death’ for influenza and tuberculosis, and we concluded that research for pneumonia should increase accordingly.

Encouragingly there have been increases in the numbers of funded pneumonia-related studies in recent years and hopefully that upward trend will continue. Interventions around the world, such as recent progress in rolling out the ‘pneumococcal’ vaccine is also very helpful but there is still a lot to learn, and a well-funded research program can help provide that knowledge and greatly reduce both deaths and numbers of new cases of this devastating disease.