The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has awarded a EUR 14 million grant to the not-for-profit medical research organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) for five years (2022-2027). The funding will support DNDi’s objective to deliver 8 to 10 new treatments for poverty-related diseases, in particular illnesses that disproportionately impact and disadvantage women of childbearing age.
These diseases include sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue, advanced HIV disease, and mycetoma.
The renewed partnership builds on a successful history of collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, a key donor to DNDi since 2006. With long-term Dutch support, DNDi has developed and ensured access to 12 new treatments for neglected patients, strengthened health systems and research capacity in resource-constrained settings, and advocated for innovation and access to life-saving treatments.
Dutch funding supports a range of activities within DNDi’s neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and poverty-related diseases portfolio, furthering DNDi’s ability to respond with agility to the most urgent needs.
NTDs disproportionately affect women. They can cause scars, disfigurement, and disabilities that result in social stigma, as well as social exclusion and mental depression. In addition, the burden of care for people living with NTDs is generally placed on women.
Efforts to tackle NTDs therefore contribute towards addressing enduring gender inequalities. Access to new NTD drugs not only strengthens health systems, but also helps to support poverty reduction, reduce health and gender inequalities, and build more resilient communities.
Although women are disproportionately affected by infectious diseases, their specific medical needs are widely overlooked in traditional biomedical research and development (R&D). DNDi is working to upend this persistent and harmful status quo. One of the five cross-cutting commitments of DNDi’s 2021-2028 Strategic Plan is to contribute to building a proactive agenda for maternal and child health, and gender-responsive R&D.
‘Clinical research practice has been slow to address the significant variables contributing to differences in health outcomes between women and men. It has been even slower to understand the many gender dimensions resulting in neglect and broader issues of social identity and power – including class, geography, ethnicity/race, religion, age, sexual orientation, and (dis)ability. Yet, it is effectively the intersection of these factors that defines the geography of neglect,’ said Joelle Tanguy, Director of External Affairs at DNDi.
The support from the Netherlands comes as the country recently affirmed its support to product development partnerships (PDPs) in its 2023-2030 Dutch Global Health Strategy as effective mechanisms to build responsive and resilient health systems. PDPs such as DNDi and its global network of R&D partners exemplify the Dutch goal of facilitating development cooperation to accelerate development and availability, accessibility, and affordability of health tools, while stimulating local production of health products.
‘The Dutch support to DNDi aims to stimulate innovation that contributes to improving the lives of women and girls in developing countries by the development and better access to new medicines, vaccines or therapies against diseases that affect many, but do not get enough attention. In this way, we really hope to improve health equity’, said Sarah Spronk, Coordinator for innovation in health at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The grant will support the development of new treatments and help avert delays in the delivery of critical health tools for patients in need. It will support not only R&D but also access activities, enabling DNDi to seek and maintain a network of partners including in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), strengthen capacity for discovery and clinical research in LMICs, and advocate for a global system for biomedical R&D that ensures all people have access to the fruits of medical innovation.
About the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BZ) makes the Kingdom of the Netherlands safer and more prosperous and works to create a just and sustainable world. We do all this together with our partners at home and abroad. Working for the Netherlands, worldwide. government.nl
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a not-for-profit medical research organization that discovers, develops, and delivers safe, effective, and affordable treatments for neglected people. DNDi is developing medicines for sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, river blindness, mycetoma, dengue, paediatric HIV, advanced HIV disease, cryptococcal meningitis, and hepatitis C. Its research priorities include children’s health, gender equity and gender-responsive R&D, and diseases impacted by climate change. Since its creation in 2003, DNDi has joined with public and private partners across the globe to deliver twelve new treatments, saving millions of lives. dndi.org
Photo credit: Mayank Agrawal-DNDi