Five years ago, governments, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs and various stakeholders set themselves the ambitious target of controlling or eliminating 10 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) by 2020. Last April, the NTD 2017 Summit marked both the WHO's roadmap on NTDs and the London Declaration 5th anniversaries. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), one of the 20 original endorsers of the London Declaration, presented the progress made in the fight against sleeping sickness over time.
Established in 2003, DNDi is a collaborative not-for-profit research and development organization that aims to address the needs of neglected patients. It focuses on discovering and developing treatments for diseases including sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, filarial infections, mycetoma, paediatric HIV and hepatitis C.
According to the WHO, over 1 billion people, often the world’s poorest are infected with a neglected tropical disease. DNDi underlines that “for many of these diseases; treatments don’t exist, or are woefully inadequate. Also, given there is no commercial motive to invest in research and development to bring new treatments to market, alternative models of innovation are needed to bring new drugs to patients.”
Since its inception, DNDi has developed and made available to patients seven new treatments, as well as building a significant drug pipeline for NTDs, with around 15 entirely new chemical entities with notably the support of the canton of Geneva, through its International Solidarity bureau. The organization says that “the end is in sight for one new drug candidate in particular: fexinidazole. With clinical trials in the Democratic Republic of Congo nearly completed, DNDi hopes to move forward, with the industrial partner Sanofi, with the registration of this drug sometime in 2017. If successful, this would be the first oral treatment for sleeping sickness and could contribute to the elimination of the disease.”
The NTD Summit in Geneva thus marked the opportunity to celebrate progress made since 2012. Various new commitments were announced, including renewed funding pledges from the UK, Belgium and the Gates Foundation, particularly around sleeping sickness.