DNDi Receives Support from NORAD for its R&D on Sleeping Sickness

[Geneva, Switzerland – 22 May 2014]
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) welcomes new public funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). This grant of NOK 15 million (EUR 1.85 million), to be disbursed over three years (until 2015), will be dedicated to the development of an oral treatment for sleeping sickness, as well as to strengthen local capacities in the endemic African countries through the Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) Platform, a network of key regional actors in clinical research for the disease.

Since its creation, DNDi has been active in drug development for neglected diseases, in particular sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT). After delivering an improved combination treatment NECT (nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy, including intravenous infusions and pills) in 2009 through innovative partnerships, DNDi and partners are currently working on developing a new, oral-only treatment that could change the way the disease is managed, and contribute to the World Health Organization’s strategy to eliminate the disease by 2020. Two promising new drug candidates are progressing in the drug development pipeline: fexinidazole, currently tested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in patients (Phase II/III) and Oxaborole SCYX-7158, currently ending the clinical tests in healthy volunteers (Phase I).

‘We are very pleased that NORAD has joined our effort to develop and deliver adapted treatments to the patients affected by this killer disease’, said Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi. ‘Having a new public funder for neglected disease research and development is a very positive sign that governments are getting involved in addressing health needs of developing countries.’

Indeed, part of DNDi’s mission is the creation of local clinical research capacities in endemic countries through disease specific platforms. Founded in 2005 in Kinshasa, DRC, the HAT (for human African trypanosomiasis) Platform has been crucial in the success of NECT development and implementation, now being the reference treatment in the 12 most endemic countries. Through active collaborations among researchers, health workers, national control programmes, and regulatory agencies representatives, policy makers, and non-governmental organizations, the HAT Platform is instrumental in the management of clinical studies, training of staff to studies’ protocol and procedures according the international standards, and in implementing new treatments and adoption of new treatment recommendations. The sleeping sickness Research & Development programme of DNDi works hand in hand with endemic countries in order to find the best field-adapted option to tackle this fatal disease.


About sleeping sickness
Sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT) is transmitted by the tsetse fly and is fatal without treatment. Endemic in 36 African countries, with 99% of patients in 12 countries of Central Africa (mainly DRC), the disease primarily occurs in the poorest, most rural areas. Approximately 20,000 estimated cases are reported and around 60 million people are at risk of being infected. The management of the disease is complex, from the diagnostic phase done with a lumbar puncture – namely to determine the stage of the disease, early- or late-stage – and the treatment phase – currently requiring intravenous infusions for 10 days – to the control and surveillance phase – follow-up visits, again with lumbar puncture. R&D effort are aiming to reach ‘detect and treat’ approaches at village level, notably an oral-only treatment, since most patients live in remote or conflict areas, far from hospitals or clinics.

About Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)
A not-for-profit research and development organization, DNDi works to deliver new treatments for neglected diseases, in particular leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, malaria, specific filarial infections, and paediatric HIV. DNDi has established regional disease-specific platforms, which bring together partners in disease-endemic countries to strengthen existing clinical research capacity, as well as to build new capacity where necessary. In East Africa, one such platform is the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP). Since its inception in 2003, DNDi has delivered six treatments: two fixed-dose antimalarials (ASAQ and ASMQ), nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy (NECT) for late-stage sleeping sickness, sodium stibogluconate and paromomycin (SSG&PM) combination therapy for visceral leishmaniasis in Africa, a set of combination therapies for visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, and a pediatric dosage form of benznidazole for Chagas disease.

DNDi was established in 2003 by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders), the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the Ministry of Health of Malaysia, and the Institut Pasteur in France, with the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases as a permanent observer.


About the HAT Platform


Press contact:
Violaine Dällenbach, Press & Communications Manager, DNDi (Headquarters)
Tel: +41 22 906 92 47 / Mobile: +41 79 424 14 74 / vdallenbach@dndi.org