Strategic collaboration for developing urgent innovative therapies for neglected diseases in Latin America

[Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Medellin, Colombia – November 25, 2014]
Ruta-N and DNDi signed an agreement establishing a strategic alliance, with an initial contribution of US$ 647,500 by Ruta-N, against leishmaniasis, a disease with an average 64,000 new cases per year in Latin America – more than 60% of which in Brazil and Colombia
Ruta-N and the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi) signed an unprecedented agreement for the development of health innovation with a shared investment of 647,500 US dollars for a period of two years in Latin America. The collaboration begins with a programme dedicated to the battle against leishmaniasis, a disease that is highly endemic and greatly burdens socio-economic development in the region. Ruta-N is an organization based in Medellin, Department of Antioquia, Colombia, which focuses on knowledge as a primary source for research and development. DNDi is a non-profit research and development organization made up of public and private partners.
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Neglected diseases affect over a billion people worldwide. Different forms of leishmaniasis are endemic in 98 countries. According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), between 2001 and 2011, an average of 640,000 new cases of the cutaneous and mucous forms were registered in 18 countries in Latin America – of which 42% in Brazil and 20% in Colombia.

We welcome this innovative funding mechanism aimed at fostering research and development for neglected diseases in Latin America”, said Eric Stobbaerts, Regional Executive Director of DNDi in Latin America. “It is a huge step forward and we hope it will help to bring new solutions to old problems. What makes this agreement exceptional is that it is a proper Colombian resource, which puts the country in a leading position among endemic countries that are capable of solving their public health issues,” he concluded.

The purpose of the alliance between DNDi and Ruta-N is to accelerate the sustainable innovation development process of new treatments for the most neglected populations, from Colombia and the rest of the world.  The collaboration begins with the evaluation of alternative topical therapies for cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) – based on a current clinical trial, Anfoleish – and conducting exploratory studies in order to evaluate potential and innovative oral compounds. In the middle term, the objective is to map other urgent needs that require the development of public health assets for neglected diseases. Chagas disease, for instance, like leishmaniasis, is endemic throughout Latin America, with 100 million people at risk. The Colombian Ministry of Health estimates that between 700,000 and 1,200,000 citizens are infected, and 8 million people are at risk of being infected.

This alliance is coherent with the basic principles of science, technology, and innovation established by Ruta N, such as emphasizing the role of networks and public-private partnerships in order to guarantee a better optimization of resources and strengthening Colombian industry, as well as positioning Medellin as a leading city in the region,” stated Elkin Echeverri García, Planning Manager at Ruta-N.

The alliance between DNDi and Ruta-N involves partners from the pharmaceutical industry, such as Humax Pharma; and from outstanding scientific and academic institutions such as the Study and Control Programme for Tropical Diseases (PECET) of the University of Antioquia, which for 25 years has been conducting an interdisciplinary programme of research and teaching, involving communities, companies, and national, departmental, and municipal authorities in the field of Tropical Medicine.

GENERAL INFORMATION

What is leishmaniasis?
Leishmaniasis, in its different forms, is present in all five continents and is endemic in 98 countries, according to the latest information of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). Around 350 million people, mostly children, are at risk of contracting one of the forms of this disease.

Caused by a Leishmania protozoon parasite, leishmaniasis is transmitted to humans by several species of phlebotome flies. Its manifestations range from cutaneous or mucous ulcers to visceral disease, with severe manifestations. The visceral form is generally fatal if untreated. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is characterized by skin lesions that may become chronic and/or deforming and is associated to social stigma, psychological sequelae and loss of productive ability. Therefore, cutaneous leishmaniasis has a considerable socio-economic burden.

About DNDi
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a not-for-profit product development partnership working to research and develop new and improved treatments for neglected diseases, in particular human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, malaria, paediatric HIV/AIDS, and filarial diseases.

Since its inception in 2003, DNDi has delivered six new 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 paediatric dosage form of benznidazole for Chagas disease.

DNDi was founded by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders (MSF), Indian Council of Medical Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Ministry of Health of Malaysia, and Institut Pasteur in France, with the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (WHO/TDR) as a permanent observer. www.dndi.org / www.dndial.org

About Ruta-N
Ruta-N is a corporation created by the City of Medellin, which facilitates the economic evolution of the city towards businesses focused on science, technology and innovation, in way that is integral and sustainable. Its main objective is, by year 2021, is to position Medellin as the most innovative city in Latin America.

The founding principles of Ruta N have given rise to the strategic guidelines that allow the Corporation to propose specific actions in the face of the challenge they have taken on. These guidelines are: an innovation culture, knowledge handling, network management, access to markets, access to corporate capital and innovation. www.rutanmedellin.org

Contacts for the press:
DNDi – Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative: Daniel Salman – Communication Analyst in Latin America – +55 21 99371 0925 / dsalman@dndi.org and Betina Moura – Communication Manager in Latin America – +55 21 98122-2798 /  bmoura@dndi.org y

Ruta-N: Maribel Corrales. maribel.corrales@rutanmedellin.org +57 4 5167770 ext 1032 Market and Communications Executive/ Mobile: 301 552 21 20