At a gathering of over 100 global public health experts, notably Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Dr A C Dhariwal, Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme of India, as well as scientists, researchers, civil society representatives, and partner organizations, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) unveiled its global Business Plan as well its plans for India and the region to better respond to the needs of patients suffering from neglected diseases. At the occasion, held on 15 October 2015, ICMR and DNDi signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reinforce their research and development (R&D) technical collaboration in the field of neglected diseases and the patronage of the ICMR as a key institutional partner of DNDi.
At the gathering, DNDi’s Executive Director, Dr Bernard Pécoul, presented the key tenets of DNDi’s new Business Plan for 2015 to 2023. As part of this plan, DNDi remains committed to developing treatments for most neglected diseases, several of which are endemic in India such as kala azar, lymphatic filariasis, paediatric HIV, and mycetoma. The new plan emphasizes DNDi’s commitment to the needs of patients suffering from these diseases, as well to extending the scope of diseases to address urgent patient needs as they arise.
“New threats are emerging at breakneck speed in today’s rapidly changing global health R&D landscape. We are now in a better position to respond and to apply new models for innovation, where patient needs drive drug development over profits, and where prices of drugs are delinked from the cost of their development. The Indian Government has a leading role and has a great resource of scientists and drug developers that can help to change the future for neglected patients in the region and around the world”, said Dr Pécoul.
Over the last decade, DNDi has been active in the region in the fields of kala azar and malaria, conducting four clinical trials in India, and a total of nine trials in the region. DNDi developed two fixed-dose antimalarial treatment combinations, one of which is produced by an Indian company, and has sponsored clinical studies for the development of an effective combination therapy and single-dose treatment for kala azar patients. The interim results of the latter were instrumental in the key policy changes taken within the Indian National Roadmap for Kala-Azar Elimination in August 2014.
“DNDi will continue its research and development for kala azar-related treatments in support of the sustainable elimination strategies. We also seek to expand fruitful partnerships in the region as we consider extending the scope of diseases we are working, notably those particularly affecting the region. We want to go where others do not”, said Dr Suman Rijal, Head of DNDi in India.
The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Dr Bernard Pécoul and Dr Soumya Swaminathan, was an important step in the future development of DNDi in India.
“There is a lack of drug and vaccine development in the area of neglected diseases because it is not profitable. That’s where DNDi, a public funding organization such as ICMR, and other science agencies, including the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Department of Biotechnology come into the picture”, said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
A panel discussion was also held on Research and Development Needs for Neglected Tropical Diseases in South Asia moderated by Dr NK Ganguly, Advisor and Professor, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute. The panel featured five prominent speakers from the field of neglected tropical diseases, including Dr Neena Valecha, Director, National Institute of Malaria Research, Dr A C Dhariwal, Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, Dr Rashmi Barbhaiya, Chief Executive Officer, Dynametics LLC, Ms Leena Meghaney, Regional Head, South Asia, MSF Access Campaign, and Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi.
Link to the Business Plan 2015-2023: https://dndi.org/2015/events/dndi-india-stakeholder-event-business-plan-launch-2015-2023/
About the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)
A not-for-profit research and development organization, DNDi works to deliver new treatments for neglected diseases, in particular leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, specific filarial infections, paediatric HIV, mycetoma, and hepatitis C. Since its inception in 2003, DNDi has delivered six 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 has established regional disease-specific platforms, which bring together partners in disease-endemic countries to strengthen existing clinical research capacity, as well as to build new capacity where necessary.
Manisha Sharma, Communications Manager, DNDi India
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