News from TDR Director, John Reeder

TDR news item
11 December 2013

Warm holiday greetings to all. We are heading into a strong 2014, with a variety of research support programmes and new evidence to get us closer to the elimination of visceral leishmaniasis in South-East Asia and malaria elimination. I’d also like to give a big thank you to Fabio Zicker, our long-term research capacity strengthening coordinator who is retiring from TDR.

New grants funded and others opening

I am pleased that the first round of Impact Grant awardees have now been announced. This is a new approach to help researchers with that little bit extra that they can’t find in a traditional grant programme. After receiving a remarkable 458 applications from 72 different countries around the world, we can see that we are offering something valuable. Consequently, we’ll be supporting another round of grants next year, so stay tuned.

We also provide small grants to each WHO region for projects specific to their needs. The African region attracted 139 proposals from 29 countries, another strong signal that these are providing the right opportunities. Eight projects were awarded this month, and more are on the way from the other regions.

"We’re starting 2014 with plenty of research support, and we’re looking forward to offering more as the year progresses."

John Reeder, TDR Director

We have exciting new grant opportunities for post graduate training and post-doctoral re-entry and support open until the seventh of February – these are research and training grants in implementation research, one of our core areas of focus. So we’re starting 2014 with plenty of research support, and we’re looking forward to offering more as the year progresses.

Research news

Two major reports just published are providing critical data and analysis that helps set priorities for both research and funding.

The World Malaria Report, produced by our colleagues in WHO’s Global Malaria Programme, have published their annual review of progress and needs in the fight to eliminate this disease. We review this report carefully each year to identify research needs to support the control of this disease that kills so many. The use of rapid diagnostic tests are a critical element for malaria elimination. A new TDR study investigating the factors influencing the uptake of the WHO policy of “test and treat” for malaria identifies the need to help health providers become more confident in diagnostic results. Even with national policies in place requiring this, providers do not always use the tests and treat accordingly.

The G-Finder Report has been published by Policy Cures. This annual report has gained a strong reputation for monitoring and highlighting trends in funding of clinical drug research and development. One of the areas the report does not cover though is the critical aspect of implementation and operational research. The innovation cycle is not just about drug discovery and development; it’s the full spectrum from basic research all the way to saving a child’s life. TDR’s strategy is focused on implementation research, and we feel that it is important that quality survey’s likeG-FINDER consider investments in this area, given its critical role in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Our work to support research needed to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in the South-East Asian continent has made another big leap. A new study just published in the open access Lancet Global Health shows how a single dose treatment of liposomal amphotericin B can be effectively and safely provided in rural public hospitals. The medication had already been recommended by the World Health Organization, but it was unknown whether primary health-care facilities in the low- and middle-income countries where the disease is endemic could manage its rollout. This is a great example of coordination with the WHO Neglected Tropical Diseases department and the Bangladesh government and research institutions, and it reinforces the need for this kind of implementation research. Even with good treatments, we still need to understand how best to get them used in the most remote and challenging circumstances, since that is often where the most difficult infectious diseases continue.

Alumni and staff

Our alumni continue to amaze me. This month we’re profiling Nelson Martins, who went from doctor to researcher to minister of health. His motivation and commitment to research evidence that helps shape policy and practice is truly inspiring.

We are saying good-bye to a long-time TDR colleague, Fabio Zicker. Fabio has been an incredible support to me in my first two years here – his knowledge of the Programme and of the thousands of people who take forward the TDR vision throughout the world is deep and valuable. He is retiring from TDR, but not from the field of diseases of poverty. I hope you’ll read the interview with him, which provides some interesting stories of the past, along with some thoughts on the future of this field.

This month we are profiling the Director’s office. This is the unit that supports donor relations, governance, partnerships and communications – critical elements of any programme, and I am pleased to be working with such a motivated and skilled group.

For more information, please contact

Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289
E-mail:guthj@who.int

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