Greater EU Leadership Needed to Further Critical Research on Neglected Diseases

[ Geneva, Switzerland – February 8, 2006 ]
At a public hearing held today at the European Parliament in Brussels, EU governments were called upon to ensure that public funding in research be primarily invested in meeting public needs and priorities, including specific health needs of populations in developing countries.

Affecting hundreds of millions, infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and the most neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and sleeping sickness kill 35,000 people each day. Although basic scientific knowledge about these diseases has progressed, there has been poor translation of this knowledge into essential medicines that meet the needs of millions of patients by being safe, effective, affordable, and easy-to-use.

In January this year, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) took the first step in addressing these priority health needs by forwarding to the World Health Assembly (WHA) a resolution proposed by Kenya and Brazil that calls for the WHO to create a new global framework on research and development (R&D) . This proposal, which received support from a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament, will be considered for adoption at the WHA in May.

“We welcome the EU parliament’s support for a greater WHO role in priority setting for research and development,” said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director for Research and Development at MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

“Two major issues must be addressed by all governments: the prioritization of needs-driven drug research and development as well as sufficient and sustainable funding for this research,” remarked Dr. Els Toreele of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). “European governments must provide greater support for something real to happen.”

At the hearing today, a panel of scientists and medical professionals urged European governments to provide greater political leadership through the Seventh Framework Programme for European Research (FP7) to ensure sustainable, increased global funding for health research and to speed up the translation of scientific progress into effective treatments for neglected patients most in need.

“Public leadership is needed to define needs and set up priorities for neglected diseases R&D,” said Bernard Pecoul , Executive Director of DNDi. “FP7 should include the most neglected diseases in its priorities, and some of the existing European mechanisms like the EDCTP (European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership) must broaden their mandate to include research on most neglected diseases and further enable the transfer of technology to disease-endemic countries. Stronger North-South and South-South collaboration will help reduce the heavy disease burden of poorer countries in the long run.”

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Based in Geneva , the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit drug development initiative that aims to develop new, improved, and field-relevant drugs for neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, and malaria. DNDi’s partners include MSF, Institut Pasteur, and public sector research institutions from Brazil, Kenya, Malaysia, and India; along with the WHO’s Tropical Diseases Research program acting as a permanent observer. With a current portfolio of 20 projects in various stages of drug research and development, DNDi also works to raise awareness about the need for greater R&D for neglected diseases and strengthens existing research capacity in disease-endemic countries. For further information: www.dndi.org

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To learn more about the public hearing, click here: http://www.epha.org/a/2114