TDR history: making a difference since 1974

"TDR uses the tools of scientific investigation to understand why good drugs, good diagnostic tests, and good preventive strategies fail to reach people in need. In other words, to find the barriers to access, including costs, in impoverished settings and break them down.”

Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General, the World Health Organization

TDR’s rich legacy began with the agreement at the World Health Assembly in May,1974 to set up the programme. This milestone was celebrated during 2014 with numerous events, including presentations by alumni on the impact on numerous diseases and regions, and a special PLOS-NTD collection of articles authored by former and current staff.


Special PLOS Collection on TDR 40 year history

In a special PLOS journal collection, TDR former and current staff provide their views on key challenges and lessons learned during the 40 year history, and explain how and why the approaches and workplans changed through time. This includes the type of research supported, the way it was conducted and even the diseases covered. As the needs in the countries evolved, so too has the Programme.

Related links and specific articles


Find out more about TDR’s rich history

TDR has provided research evidence to five major elimination campaigns for neglected diseases and we've been part of the development of 12 new drugs. We’ve also helped to establish the effectiveness of insecticide-treated bednets and artemisinin combination therapy, now the mainstay of malaria control and treatment. Importantly, we've identified social and gender barriers that impede access to treatment and care, and provided evidence of the strength of communities in extending the health systems, starting with river blindness annual treatments, going on to diagnose and treat malaria, and to prevent dengue and Chagas disease transmission.

We've also trained thousands of researchers: in just about every low- and middle-income country, many of the scientific leaders and policy-makers are former TDR grantees.

News from TDR Director, John Reeder

Our work this month provides several examples of the new Sustainable Development Goals in action. We’re providing a focus on vectors, environment and society research. This requires working with partners in many sectors and developing integrated approaches. Solutions for one disease are also working for others, such as with Zika virus disease, dengue and chikungunya.

Holistic research reducing vector-borne diseases like malaria, dengue and Zika

Profile image of Florence Fouque, Vectors, environment and society research team leader.

More than 30 research projects are currently being funded, with about 100 students getting their Masters and PhD degrees as part of this work (many of them living in or near the communities at risk). One of our major projects has been studying how to help vulnerable African communities increase their resilience to diseases like malaria and sleeping sickness. These diseases are affected by climate change.

A new platform for research networking, to be launched in November 2016.

About TDR: making a difference

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate, support and influence efforts to combat diseases of poverty. TDR is hosted at the World Health Organization (WHO), and is sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and WHO.