I was in London for the Declaration we made together in 2012 to control, eliminate or eradicate ten diseases by 2020. Ten years later, it is great to see the energy and renewed commitment of all actors to meeting the ambitions of the new WHO Roadmap on NTDs.
One of the most critical aspects for our success in meeting the goals of the WHO Roadmap to 2030 will be medical innovation.
Together, in the last twenty years, product development partnerships including my own organization, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, DNDi, have successfully delivered more than 65 health tools. These vaccines, medicines, and tests bring urgently needed solutions against diseases including malaria and NTDs.
Together, we have reached more than 2.4 billion people, including the most vulnerable women and children.
This is an alternative non-profit research and development model that works.
DNDi itself has delivered twelve treatments in its first twenty years. Our ambition is to bring 25 new treatments by 2028, which is DNDi’s commitment to the Kigali Declaration.
When DNDi began, the only available treatment for sleeping sickness was based on arsenic. It was so toxic that it killed one in every twenty of the patients we treated. Patients were afraid to come for treatment, and as a doctor, I was afraid to give this medicine to people.
There is no greater anguish for a doctor than to have no safe options to treat their patients.
Today, twenty years later, thanks to medical innovation, we have a treatment, that removes the need for hospitalization. Instead of infusions of arsenic, we have a simple pill for 10 days.
The result is truly a revolution, because we now have a safe and effective treatment, and one that is possible at the primary healthcare level.
It raises the hope for a disease-free generation, unlocking the potential for elimination of the disease once and for all.
This was possible thanks to our partnerships with researchers, Ministries of Health, and hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and with WHO, Sanofi, and our partners in Angola, Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda.
We need to replicate this success. We still lack tools for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment that are simple, safe, and effective – and that can be easily integrated into already overburdened health systems. For most NTDs, inadequate investment in medical research threatens progress towards sustainable disease elimination.
If one thing is clear from my time at DNDi: it’s that the key ingredient of our success is partnerships. Our success is our partners’ success also – many of you have joined us in bringing the best science for the most neglected.
Like other product development partnerships, we are able to innovate because they are collaborative. We provide a bridge and bring together the unique experience and role of academic research, the pharmaceutical industry, and the public sectors.
As we discuss what is needed to reach the targets of the WHO Roadmap, my call to our partners would be:
- To the public sector: we need political leadership to support local and regional innovation networks, and to ensure access to new treatments, and that they are integrated as part of countries essential package of care as part of commitments to universal health care.
- To our partners in industry: we call on you to join forces with product development partnerships and make innovation possible. However valuable these efforts have been, the contributions of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be limited to giving donations of already existing treatments. We need you to engage in innovation and sustainable procurement.
With sustainable funding, and closer relationships with private and public sector actors, we can replicate these successes.
So that a child with leishmaniasis here in East Africa; a farmer with filariasis in India; or a teacher with Chagas disease in Brazil: all have easy access to testing and safe, easy to take treatment.
Only when this becomes a reality, will we know that we have delivered on the promises we have all made today to the most neglected patients around the world.
These sentiments were shared by Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director, DNDi during the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases that took place on the 23 June 2022 alongside the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which brought together world leaders to reaffirm commitments to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases.