from Dr Marie-Paule Kieny and Dr Bernard Pécoul


2019 marked a year of exciting progress for DNDi teams and partners around the world, as we set out from the milestone of our 15th anniversary with renewed commitment to advancing medical innovation for neglected patients.

Within weeks of its approval by the European Medicines Agency, our latest drug – fexinidazole for the treatment of sleeping sickness – was registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country hit hardest by the deadly disease. Our teams and partners worked to pave the way for widespread patient access to the safer, simpler, all-oral treatment, including through trainings for health staff in DRC, Guinea, Central African Republic, Angola, and South Sudan. We were thrilled by the news when doctors administered the first treatments to patients outside clinical trials in January 2020.

Building on the success of ‘fexi’, we are now developing a new single-dose oral drug that could radically improve prospects for eliminating sleeping sickness, a key target of the WHO roadmap on NTDs. It is one of over 40 research and development projects we are currently advancing to reduce illness, suffering, and death from some of the world’s most neglected diseases.

It is our firm belief that the medical innovations we are working to deliver are vital to achieving Universal Health Coverage and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The need to overcome gaps in innovation and access to medical tools developed specifically for the people and places that need them most is in the spotlight now more than ever.

One such innovation impasse that is close to our teams’ hearts is the lack of treatments adapted to the needs of children living with HIV. But better treatments for kids and their caregivers are on the horizon – including thanks to Cipla’s submission of our new child-friendly formulation of four antiretroviral medicines to the US Food and Drug Administration in October 2019. The easy-to-administer, strawberry-flavoured ‘4-in-1’ requires no refrigeration and is a great improvement over the current bitter tasting syrup with high alcohol content. We hope it will be one of many treatment advances to come as we continue to work to meet the medical needs of infants and young children.

As we look back on the year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the terrible toll it has brought to bear, we stand firm in our commitment to neglected patients and share our immense gratitude to health workers around the world who are putting themselves at considerable risk to treat the sick and contain the pandemic.

We thank our many friends, funders, and partners who continue to join us in our efforts to help deliver the best science for the most neglected.

In memory of Marleen Boelaert

We were profoundly saddened to learn of Marleen’s passing in June 2020. She was a true champion in the fight against neglected tropical diseases and was instrumental at DNDi, including as a member of our Scientific Advisory Committee and as an advisor for our sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis projects. Everyone at DNDi who was fortunate enough to know Marleen will remember her for her sharp intelligence, kindness, courage, and humility. We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Photo credit: Emmanuel Museruka-DNDi

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