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Partners Tackle Tropical Diseases

Health Care: Public and private groups get a road map for 2020

by Ann M. Thayer
February 1, 2012

Credit: Sanofi
Children in Brazil are screened for leishmaniasis.
Children in Brazil are screened for leishmaniasis.
Credit: Sanofi
Children in Brazil are screened for leishmaniasis.

A group of public and private partners on Monday announced a coordinated push against 10 neglected tropical diseases that affect 1.4 billion people. By the end of the decade, 13 pharmaceutical companies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, various governments, and health organizations hope to have found ways to eliminate or control the targeted diseases.

On their list for eradication are Guinea worm disease, filariasis, blinding trachoma, sleeping sickness, and leprosy. They also hope to find control measures against soil-transmitted helminths, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease, and visceral leishmaniasis.

“Many companies and organizations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases, but no one company or organization can do it alone,” GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty said on behalf of the participating drug companies. “We pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future.”

To commit to certain goals by 2020, the partners endorsed the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases.” The goals include sustaining and expanding drug donations; sharing expertise to accelerate R&D for new treatments; and increasing funding to improve prevention, monitoring, and education. Funding of existing and new programs in these areas total more than $785 million.

The Gates Foundation has pledged $363 million over five years to support drug product and operational research to address critical gaps in control and elimination. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative also announced collaborative agreements with 11 pharmaceutical companies to access their compound libraries.

The commitments and pledges of additional resources are in response to a 2010 World Health Organization report on the global impact of neglected tropical diseases. The partners have worked together over the past year to develop an expanded and coordinated effort. To guide the new effort, WHO has unveiled a road map that sets targets and will track progress through 2020.



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