Our story: 20 years of DNDi
Our story: 20 years of DNDi
20 years of making medicines for people, not profits
Our founding partners established DNDi in 2003 in response to shocking neglect: patients and health workers around the world were faced with medicines that were ineffective, unsafe, priced out of reach, or simply never developed at all.
‘There is no greater anguish for a doctor than to have no safe option to treat their patients’
- DNDi FOUNDER, DR BERNARD PÉCOUL
Two decades on, we’ve delivered 12 affordable new treatments for six deadly diseases – thanks to the talent and commitment of hundreds of partners who have helped us prove that collaborative, not-for-profit R&D can deliver for neglected patients.
Our story is about turning frustration into action to ensure all people can benefit from the fruits of scientific progress.
Born on the frontlines of medical action
Medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) wins the Nobel Peace Prize and dedicates the award to confronting a growing injustice: the failure of the market-driven model of pharmaceutical R&D to deliver safe, affordable, and effective medicines for millions of neglected patients.
Established in partnership with endemic countries
MSF, WHO, and five prominent research institutions from Brazil (Fiocruz), Kenya (KEMRI), India (ICMR), Malaysia (Ministry of Health), and France (Institut Pasteur) come together to create DNDi as a non-profit organization that develops treatments for neglected diseases. DNDi offices on five continents help ensure endemic-country leadership in setting R&D priorities and enable close proximity to patients.
Building R&D alliances where they’re needed most
DNDi founds the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP), a network uniting research and disease control organizations from endemic countries to work together on research agendas, clinical trials, and enhancing research capacity to combat the disease. Similar networks for sleeping sickness (2005), Chagas (2009), and cutaneous leishmaniasis (2014) are also established.
Proof that not-for-profit R&D can deliver
DNDi shows that not-for-profit drug development can work: DNDi and partners deliver ASAQ, a new, patent-free treatment for malaria, with over 500 million treatment courses distributed over the next 15 years. Technology transfer to African manufacturer Zenufa is completed in 2016.
Replacing toxic, arsenic-based medicines with safer, effective alternatives
Together with our partners, DNDi delivers NECT – the first new, improved treatment option in 25 years for advanced sleeping sickness. NECT eliminates the need for melarsoprol, the toxic but widely used arsenic-based treatment that killed 1 in 20 patients. WHO adds NECT to its Essential Medicines List, and it plays a key role in bringing case numbers down.
Looking beyond neglected tropical diseases, to focus on neglected patients
DNDi begins a new programme to address the unmet treatment needs of children living with HIV. Although not defined as a neglected tropical disease, children with HIV are left behind. DNDi’s dynamic approach allows it to respond to the evolving public health needs and take on new disease areas while delivering on the public-interest R&D objectives we have set from the start.
DNDi joins the largest, global coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs
Along with 13 pharmaceutical companies, the US and UK governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and officials from NTD-endemic countries, DNDi signs the London Declaration, pledging to foster the public-private collaboration needed to defeat neglected diseases and improve the lives of over a billion people worldwide.
DNDi celebrates 10 years of innovative pharmaceutical R&D for neglected patients
In its first 10 years, DNDi achieved 350+ collaborations in 43 countries, conducted 25 clinical studies, and developed 6 improved treatments for neglected diseases while strengthening research capacities in endemic countries. Detailed analysis of the R&D process for treatments delivered by DNDi and partners shows that new treatments can be developed with relatively modest investments from committed donors, innovative alliances, and strong involvement of authorities and partners.
Joining forces through open and collaborative models
DNDi launches the Drug Discovery Booster, bringing 8 pharmaceutical companies together to simultaneously search millions of compounds for treatments for leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. The Booster is a more efficient and less expensive approach that potentially accelerates the R&D process by reducing duplication and attracting more actors to the field.
Launching an entirely new initiative on antimicrobial resistance
DNDi and WHO co-create the Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP) to address the growing threat of drug-resistant infections. With an initial focus on sexually transmitted infections, sepsis in newborns, and infections in hospitalized adults and children, GARDP becomes an independent entity in 2019 following a three-year incubation by DNDi.
The world’s first clinical trial for people with mycetoma
After advocating for greater visibility for mycetoma through its inclusion on WHO’s List of Neglected Tropical Diseases, DNDi and partners start the world’s first – and only – clinical trial for people with this debilitating fungal infection.
Revolutionizing the treatment for sleeping sickness
DNDi and partners deliver fexinidazole. Instead of the toxic, arsenic-based treatments that killed 1 in 20 patients at DNDi’s creation, doctors can now prescribe a safe, effective, all-oral medicine. Fexinidazole removes the need for systematic hospitalization and eases the burden on health systems – bringing the prospect of eliminating sleeping sickness ever closer.
COVID-19: an acute example of chronic failures in medical innovation and access
DNDi leverages a consortium of partners to test potential treatments in resource-limited settings, and spearheads open and collaborative drug discovery to identify new drug candidates for COVID-19 and future coronaviruses. DNDi advocates for policies that will spur innovation and ensure equitable access to the fruits of scientific progress for all.
Catalyzing South–South collaboration to deliver an affordable treatment for hepatitis C
With its industrial partners in Egypt and Malaysia, DNDi delivers ravidasvir, a safe, effective, and affordable direct-acting antiviral for the treatment of hepatitis C. Now included on the WHO’s Essential Medicines List, ravidasvir has cure rates of 97% and serves to increase treatment affordability in countries that do not have access to generic drugs.
Looking to the future for simple, all-oral leishmaniasis treatments
DNDi and partners deliver two additional shorter-course treatments based on existing drugs while working to expand access to testing and treatment for this parasitic disease. Years of investment in early-stage drug discovery result in the world’s largest portfolio of promising new chemical entities with the potential to become safe, effective, and easy-to-use all-oral treatments.
Dr Luis Pizarro succeeds Dr Bernard Pécoul as Executive Director of DNDi
Dr Luis Pizarro succeeds Dr Bernard Pécoul as Executive Director of DNDi. Under Dr Pécoul’s leadership, DNDi grew from 4 staff to a global not-for-profit R&D organization with hundreds of public and private partners and activities on 5 continents – delivering 12 new treatments for 6 deadly diseases.
DNDi launches Dengue Alliance to accelerate drug development for the climate-sensitive disease
A global research partnership led by institutions from dengue-endemic countries begins work to develop affordable and accessible treatments for the climate-sensitive disease. The Dengue Alliance brings together partners from Thailand, India, Brazil, and Malaysia to accelerate pharmaceutical R&D for one of the top 10 threats to global public health worldwide.
Radical boost for the sustainable elimination of sleeping sickness
Identified by DNDi in 2009, acoziborole became the first new chemical entity to be issued from DNDi’s own lead optimization programme. Following the publication of promising results from DNDi’s Phase II/III trial in patients with T.b. gambiense sleeping sickness in November 2022, experts hail the new single-dose treatment for its unique potential to help sustainably eliminate the disease.
20 years, 250 partners, 12 treatments, 28 countries
DNDi marks 20 years of not-for-profit pharmaceutical R&D with 12 treatments delivered for 6 deadly diseases, research activities spanning 5 continents, a dynamic portfolio of over 40 ongoing projects in 9 disease areas, and clinical trials in 28 countries.
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