DNDi Receives $25.7M from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Develop New Medicines for Neglected Diseases

[ Geneva, Switzerland – December 12, 2007 ]
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) has received a USD 25.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research and develop new medicines to treat human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), also known as sleeping sickness, and visceral leishmaniasis (VL).

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will help DNDi fill critical gaps in the HAT and VL drug development pipelines by supporting our lead optimization drug discovery programs for HAT and VL, which will in turn fuel our drug development projects,” stated Dr. Bernard Pecoul, Executive Director of DNDi. “With the goal of providing better, low-cost treatments, we are intensifying neglected diseases research and are endeavoring to rekindle the hopes of the many people who suffer from these diseases in the poorest regions of the world.”

The grant, to be disbursed to DNDi over five years, will provide critical funding for the research and development of new drug candidates for HAT and VL. DNDi will foster the development of the drug candidates through the preclinical stages and select one lead candidate for each disease to advance into Phase I human clinical trials.
“The pledge of $25.7M highlights the urgent need to accelerate R&D for neglected diseases,” remarked Dr. Shing Chang, Director of Research & Development at DNDi. “This important commitment to HAT and VL drug discovery will serve to encourage research into new, innovative treatment options for these diseases.”
“Far too little R&D is devoted to neglected diseases such as trypanosomiasis and visceral leishmaniasis, which threaten millions of people in the developing world but are virtually unheard of in rich countries,” said Dr. Regina Rabinovich, Director of Infectious Diseases Development at the Gates Foundation. “By helping to close this research gap, DNDi is bringing us closer to the day when the word ‘neglected’ no longer applies to these diseases.”

For more information, please consult www.dndi.org or contact:
Ann-Marie Sevcsik at amsevcsik@dndi.org or +41 (0)79 814 9147.

About the Diseases – HAT and VL

A fatal disease if not treated, HAT threatens more than 50 million people in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The few drugs currently in existence to treat either Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the disease have a number of serious limitations including severe toxicity, the difficulty of administration, cost, and lost efficacy in several regions. The difficulty of diagnosis, stage determination, and increasing numbers of treatment failures pose additional clinical challenges.

The urgent need for new drugs to treat VL is also deeply compelling. A potentially fatal disease, VL threatens 200 million people in 62 countries and has a fatality rate as high as 100% within 2 years in some developing countries. Of the 500,000 new cases each year, almost all (~90%) arise from recurrent epidemics in poor, rural areas of the Indian subcontinent, Brazil, and Sudan, with approximately 60,000 deaths each year. Therapeutic options for VL are limited as there are significant drawbacks like route of administration, toxicity, or cost.

About DNDi
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit drug development initiative established in 2003 by five publicly-funded research organisations – the Malaysian Ministry of Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Brazil, and the Institut Pasteur – as well as an international humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières. The UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) is a permanent observer. With a current portfolio of 18 projects, DNDi aims to develop new, improved, and field-relevant drugs for neglected diseases, such as malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and Chagas disease that afflict the very poor in developing countries.

DNDi needs an additional EUR 200 million in funding in order to achieve its objectives of building a robust pipeline and delivering six to eight new treatments by 2014. To date, DNDi has secured EUR 74 million from public and private donors, including a significant initial contribution from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.