MSF and DNDi call for scale-up of R&D for neglected diseases
23 February 2009
Geneva/New York: The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) called today for more sustainable funding for research and development (R&D) to tackle deadly, yet neglected diseases, such as sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, that affect millions of people around the world. MSF also announced its renewed operational and financial support to DNDi, a non-profit R&D organization co-founded by MSF and five public and private research institutes in 2003, in response to the urgent need for new treatments and the lack of adequate public leadership in stimulating R&D and medical innovation for neglected diseases. "We have patients suffering from diseases such as sleeping sickness who are forced to endure toxic and dangerous treatments just to have a limited chance at survival; at the same time, treatments for those living with visceral leishmaniasis remain prohibitively expensive, and treatments for chronic Chagas patients are nonexistent," said Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF International Council President. "DNDi has demonstrated through its work how innovative, needs-driven, collaborative R&D can produce medicine adapted to our patients. DNDi and other public-private partnerships, however, cannot substitute for strong political leadership and commitment of governments to ensure people have access to lifesaving treatments for neglected diseases." Since its inception, DNDi has developed two fixed-dose combination treatments (ASAQ and ASMQ) for malaria without patent protection, resulting in medicines that are adapted to patient needs and can be sourced from several manufacturers, thereby ensuring competitive pricing and sufficient availability of the drugs. In addition, positive results for an improved sleeping sickness treatment, based on a recently completed clinical trial by DNDi, with significant field related support from MSF, is promising news for patients. DNDi has also developed the largest-ever R&D portfolio for potential new treatments for sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. "Stimulating innovation and delivering effective, affordable treatments for diseases that affect the world's poorest populations, and that fall outside the mainstream market interest, remains a tremendous challenge for DNDi and its partners given the lack of sustainable and predictable funding sources," said Dr. Bernard Pécoul, DNDi Executive Director. "Our results demonstrate that when R&D is driven by patient needs, it is possible to create cutting-edge medical tools that are accessible to the impoverished people most at risk from neglected diseases." Although the global R&D landscape has improved for neglected diseases since 2003, the dire needs of the most neglected victims who carry on suffering in the developing world are still largely unmet. A recent study by G-Finder revealed that less than five percent of worldwide R&D funding for neglected diseases has been directed towards the most neglected diseases, such as sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis, and Chagas. More than 500 million people are at risk from these three parasitic diseases. Given the acute need for treatments for patients in the field, MSF has committed 18 million Euros (about US$22.5 million) over the next six years to DNDi and continues to provide support through its field programs to the operational and clinical research needed to advance DNDi's drug-development portfolio.