You're missing the point, though.
Yes, that money passed through the hands of the customers. The customers passed that money to the pharmaceutical company for a good (drugs) that they wanted. That money then entered the account of the company which funded the research. The consumers didn't choose that path for what used to be their money.
Now, if the consumers had a *choice*, that money could have been spent on research for prion-like diseases, but more likely, it would have been spent on a trip to the Bahamas, a new car, or even on talking to fake women on AshleyMadison.com.
Would the customers have chosen to fund this research with their money? Maybe... but they didn't. Here they spent the money on something that they needed for themselves. And honestly, 75% of them probably don't even know what a prion is, or they think it is a new model of hybrid car. Or they would have decided to fund something else, like cancer research, or possibly bogus pop-science.
The drug company took the money that they obtained for the sale of a drug that was created based on previous research and then rolled it back into R&D which supports the drug company's future profits: (ie. this research).
Should we give credit to the company for their charity in bringing these drugs to us? Hell, no. This is what those companies do. They are engines for producing drugs to bring in profit.
Still, there needs to be an understanding that profit motive is a big reason that research like this does get done. Comsumers are part of the economy, but they are a natural force like the wind or the sun beating down. Direction of money, time, resources and manpower is important and the consumers aren't doing that when it comes to certain things like R&D projects.