DNDi Inaugurates Africa’s First Clinical Research Facility for Visceral Leishmaniasis in Ethiopia

[ Geneva, Switzerland – March 2, 2005 ]
For Immediate Release : Africa’s first clinical research facility dedicated to visceral leishmaniasis (VL), was inaugurated by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) on February 9 in the presence of the regional authorities of Ministry of Health, and members from Addis Ababa University (AAU).

The Leishmaniasis Research and Treatment Centre (LRTC) is located in Arba Minch, southern Ethiopia .

“This facility marks an important step in meeting the needs of VL patients who have been neglected because of a lack of access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment,” remarked Catherine Royce, DNDi Leishmaniasis Project Manager.

Built by DNDi, with funds provided by the Leopold Bachmann Foundation , a Swiss philanthropic organization, the LRTC will function both as a treatment and research facility for patients suffering from VL, also known as kala-azar. Affecting patients who mostly live in areas where access to health care is minimal, VL is a deadly disease that claims thousands of lives a year.

Visceral leishmaniasis patients from Konso
(nearby Arba Minch)

Professor Asrat Hailu, a senior researcher in the Faculty of Medicine at Addis Ababa University , commented, “In a country where research is not yet fully considered as a part of the solution to the problems that face us, and hence where capacity for clinical research is rudimentary, the roadmap of DNDi could not have been more timely.”
The LRTC is part of DNDi‘s Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) that brings together a regional group of scientists and institutions working on developing clinical trial capacity to bring new treatments to patients suffering from VL. LEAP currently involves clinical trial sites in 3 countries – Ethiopia , Sudan , and Kenya .

LEAP members, and DNDi officials attending the inaugural ceremony

With an inclusive strategy that utilizes existing expertise in disease-endemic regions, DNDi currently has eight projects focused on leishmaniasis – 2 in the early drug discovery stage, 3 in preclinical studies, and 3 in clinical testing. Because current treatment requires a 30-day course of painful injections given in a hospital , there is a need for both immediate improvements in terms of availability and cost as well as longer-term innovation in terms of efficacy and prevention of resistance.

Bernard Pecoul, Executive Director of DNDi, emphasized, “The goal of DNDi‘s portfolio strategy for VL is to work towards a well-balanced range of projects. We are working to ensure that patient needs are urgently met with the best science for the most neglected.”

A current snapshot of the DNDi portfolio for visceral leishmaniasis as of April 2006

The Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) currently involves partner institutions in three countries: in Kenya, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Ministry of Health; in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa University (AAU), the Drug Administration and Control Authority (DACA), and the Ministry of Health; and in Sudan, the University of Khartoum, the Federal Ministry of Health, and MSF-Holland. The role of LEAP is to facilitate clinical testing and registration of new treatments for VL in the region; to evaluate, validate and register improved options that address regional needs for leishmaniasis; and to provide capacity strengthening for drug evaluation and clinical studies in the region.

The Leishmaniasis Research and Treatment Centre (LRTC,) Africa’s first clinical research facility dedicated to visceral leishmaniasis (VL), was opened in February 2006 by DNDi in Arba Minch , Ethiopia . The building is part of Arba Hospital and was built by Mr. Mekonnen Zeyeye and Mr. Feyisa Kefene. The building has 24 beds, separate examination and treatment rooms, a laboratory, offices for medical personnel, a rest area for patients and families, cooking facilities, and a water storage tank.

Pictures of the new research and treatment facility