The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) recently renewed its support for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), allocating a total of CHF 8 million over the coming four years (2013-2016). The research and development for new treatments for neglected diseases contributes to the World Health Organization’s global strategy to eliminate specific neglected tropical diseases by 2020.
Following its initial support (CHF 4 million) granted in 2010 to the Geneva-based not-for-profit research and development (R&D) organization, the SDC has reiterated its commitment to the fight against neglected tropical diseases with support to DNDi’s R&D projects to find new treatments for these diseases which affect the poorest populations in developing countries.
‘After four years of fruitful collaboration with the SDC, this renewed support by the Swiss Agency will allow us to pursue our development of new treatments against neglected diseases, and to do our part in fighting these poverty-related diseases that flourish on a large scale in developing countries’, explains Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director, DNDi.
Founded in 2003 with the support of several prominent public research institutions in neglected disease-endemic countries, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, Institut Pasteur, and WHO/TDR, DNDi has successfully developed and delivered six new treatments against malaria, sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease. Furthermore, its R&D portfolio includes a number of promising molecules that could become oral drug treatments, i.e. more suited to the conditions of these endemic countries, and more accessible to patients. In 2011, DNDi broadened the scope of its scientific projects by orienting its R&D portfolio towards additional urgent, unmet needs in the fields of paediatric HIV/AIDS and parasitic infections caused by filarial worms (onchocerciasis, elephantiasis, Loa loa filariasis).
More than one billion people, including 500 million children, are affected by neglected tropical diseases in very poor, remote areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Without treatment, some of these diseases, notably sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis, are fatal. In addition to the treatments already delivered, DNDi plans to develop at least another five new treatments by 2018, and the SDC’s support will be key to attaining this objective. Some of these treatments will contribute to the WHO’s plan to eliminate certain neglected diseases by 2020.
‘Switzerland’s commitment to DNDi is part of the Swiss Agency’s global strategy to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. The SDC support for innovative R&D models that are rooted in North-South partnerships between private and public-sector players is an encouraging sign, and represents a great source of hope for millions of people in distress’, points out Professor Marcel Tanner, Chairman of the DNDi Board of Directors and Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH).
In the words of SDC Director-General Martin Dahinden: ‘One of the SDC’s priority goals in terms of health, namely the reduction of poverty, can only be attained if health systems and access to essential medicines are consolidated. In this respect, we are counting on our cooperation with NGOs, including DNDi, to advance the current situation in which millions of patients await effective and suitable treatment. The diseases on which DNDi focuses its research – such as malaria, leishmaniasis and paediatric HIV/AIDS – chiefly affect mothers, children and infants, and the SDC is committed to improving the health of these populations.’
 ‘Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases – A roadmap for implementation’. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2012 (document WHO/HTM/NTD/2012.1)
Press & Communications Manager, DNDi
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The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a not-for-profit research and development (R&D) organization working to deliver new treatments for the most neglected diseases, in particular sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis), Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, malaria, filaria, and paediatric HIV/AIDS. Since its inception in 2003, DNDihas delivered six new treatments: two fixed-dose antimalarials (ASAQ and ASMQ), nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy (NECT) for late-stage sleeping sickness, sodium stibogluconate and paromomycin (SSG&PM) combination therapy for visceral leishmaniasis in Africa, a set of combination therapies for visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, and a paediatric dosage form of benznidazole for Chagas disease.
DNDi was established by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Indian Council of Medical Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Ministry of Health of Malaysia, and Institut Pasteur in France, with the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR) as a permanent observer.
DNDi has helped establish three clinical research platforms: Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda; the HAT Platform based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for sleeping sickness; and the Chagas Clinical Research Platform in Latin America. Strong regional networks such as these help strengthen research and treatment-implementation capacity in neglected disease-endemic countries.
About ‘Connect to Fight Neglect’
As part of its 10th anniversary, DNDi has launched a special advocacy website to give voice and attention to neglected patients and those working to develop and deliver life-saving treatments for them. The ‘Connect to Fight Neglect’ website is a multimedia web portal where videos, photos, audio, testimonials, stories, and opinions can be shared about some of the world’s most neglected diseases, the people whose lives are diminished and threatened by these conditions, and the research and care efforts under way around the world. Among the people featured are patients, doctors, researchers, public health officials, policymakers, funders, and activists.