New initiative to research and develop drugs for the world’s most neglected diseases
Delhi, 25 June 2003 - In a unique initiative, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Nobel Prize winning Organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and four eminent public research institutes from around the world have joined forces to address the lack of research and development in drugs for neglected diseases. This Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative or DNDi, will work in close collaboration with WHO/TDR Tropical Disease Research program (1).
“Parasites don’t make headline news and they don’t make a profit, so despite TDR’s successes working with both the private and public sector, it has been difficult to find partners and increased investment for neglected diseases over the years,” said Dr Carlos Morel, TDR Director. “We are excited about collaborating with DNDi and hope that it will play a key role in raising awareness and investment and in speeding up the process of turning research into usable drugs for the most neglected diseases.”
A mere 10% of global health research is devoted to diseases that account for 90% of the global disease burden. Among the more well-known of these such as malaria, Tuberculosis, and leprosy, are the world’s most neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis (kala azar), human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), and Chagas disease, that afflict the deeply impoverished in developing countries.
The world’s most neglected patients desperately need new, affordable, accessible and effective drugs, but their diseases do not represent a market profitable enough to attract Research and Development (R&D). Investment in drugs for neglected diseases is a mere trickle compared to the large amount invested in R&D for possible blockbuster drugs for diseases like cancer and hypertension, or lifestyle disorders such as impotence, obesity and baldness. “Millions die each year from lack of effective, affordable drugs for curable tropical diseases,” said Bernard Pecoul, Director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.
A number of organizations are looking for solutions to ease the plight of the poor suffering from tropical diseases. DNDi’s six founding partners are primarily from the public sector and have already been working tirelessly in the field of public health and research: MSF, the Institut Pasteur, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, ICMR and the Malaysian Ministry of Health. As DNDi, they will work with WHO/TDR, and use their existing capacity and global resources to address the unmet needs of people suffering from neglected diseases by taking on drug development projects that others are unable or unwilling to pursue. They will further harness modern science to research and develop appropriate health tools using a not-for-profit collaborative model of drug development, and highlight the importance of promoting public responsibility in providing equitable access to these drugs.
DNDi, like WHO/TDR, will seek to strengthen existing R&D capacity in developing countries affected by the diseases. Prof N.K. Ganguly, Director-General ICMR, an active member of DNDi’s Founding Partners group, explained, “India is an example of a country with both research and manufacturing capacity. Basically, products can be researched and manufactured in one developing country for use in another. Thus, it is crucial to collaborate across borders to ensure that those who need the drugs get them from those of us who can research and produce them.”
With TDR’s assistance, DNDi has already initiated a successful worldwide call for research proposals. The ideas submitted showed that many scientists around the world are already researching new possibilities in drugs for neglected diseases. Once its Scientific Advisory Committee makes the final selection of drug R&D projects, DNDi will develop these further with the international research community, the public sector, the pharmaceutical industry, and other relevant partners. In addition to the joint R&D projects with DNDi, TDR will continue to work on its own portfolio in this area. Over a 12 year period, DNDi aspires to have a balanced project portfolio and six to seven projects registered for Chagas disease, sleeping sickness and kala azar. The DNDi will be registered as a not-for-profit Organization in Geneva on 3 July 2003.
(1) UNDP/ World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases
For more information please contact: Samantha Bolton, WHO/TDR, tel: +41 79 239 23 66 or Delhi 011 243 63 030 Room 445 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Jaya Banerji, DNDi, tel: +41 79 210 93 78 or Delhi: 011 274 79 181 or email: email@example.com