DNDi applauds 2015 Nobel Prize winners for key advancements in fighting malaria, river blindness, and lymphatic filariasis

[Geneva, Switzerland – 5 October 2015] Calls to fill remaining gaps in R&D pipeline of treatments for neglected patients
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) applauds the three winners of the ‘2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine’ announced today by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet. The important research conducted by eminent scientists, William C. Cambell, Satoshi Omura, and Youyou Tu, ultimately led to therapies for the highly debilitating parasitic worm diseases, lymphatic filariasis and river blindness (onchocerciasis), and the world’s largest parasitic killer, malaria.

‘The fact that this Nobel Prize has been awarded to parasitologists who devoted their careers to the treatment of diseases that affect poor populations in low- and middle-income countries shows that research and development (R&D) can deliver concrete solutions of great importance to global public health’, said Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi. ‘Two fixed-dose combination treatments that DNDi and partners delivered for malaria – ASAQ and ASMQ – were made possible thanks to artemisinin and addressed urgent needs. Unfortunately, such treatments are the exception rather than the rule.’

While it is widely recognized that ivermectin and artemisinin have had major public health impact for river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria, a comprehensive analysis of the R&D pipeline for neglected diseases shows that there are still major gaps in the R&D pipeline.

For river blindness, mass treatment programmes using ivermectin can take up to 15 years and do not offer a definitive cure for patients because they only kill juvenile worms, leaving adult worms alive in the body. To build on the success of ivermectin, a drug that kills adult worms is needed to completely cure patients and DNDi and partners are currently working to develop a ‘macrofilaricide’ that could do just that.

DNDi applauds today’s Nobel Prize and hopes that it will inspire a new generation of researchers to pursue scientific careers in the field of neglected diseases. We also hope it will encourage greater public leadership in innovation and access to treatments for neglected patients. Today’s award will go a long way in showing that innovation cannot be reserved only for those who can pay.

About the 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, specific filarial infections, paediatric HIV, mycetoma, and hepatitis C. Since its inception in 2003, DNDi has delivered six treatments: two fixed-dose antimalarials (ASAQ and ASMQ) – recently transferred to the Medicines for Malaria Venture; 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 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.