Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

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The logo of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a collaborative, patients' needs-driven, non-profit drug research and development (R&D) organization that is developing new treatments for neglected diseases, notably leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT), Chagas disease,[1] malaria, filarial diseases, mycetoma, paediatric HIV,[2] and hepatitis C. DNDi's malaria activities were transferred to Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) in 2015.

Led by Executive Director Bernard Pécoul,[3] DNDi is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa, and an affiliate in the United States.


Despite the major progress achieved in medicine during the past 50 years, many tropical diseases affecting the poorest are still neglected. More than a billion people[4] – more than a seventh of the world's population – are infected with one of the 20 diseases listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as neglected tropical diseases.[5] Although neglected tropical diseases can be fatal, there is a lack of modern, safe and effective medications to treat these illnesses.[citation needed]

Evidence of the lack of new drugs for diseases that cause high mortality and morbidity among people living in poor areas has been published in the scientific literature. One publication reported that only 1.1% of new drugs were approved specifically for neglected diseases over a period of 25 years (1975 to 1999) despite the fact that these diseases represented 11.4% of the global burden.[6] Another indicated that this trend remained the same between 2000 and 2011 with only 1.2% of the new chemical entities brought to market indicated for neglected diseases.[7]

DNDi was created in 2003 to develop new treatments for neglected diseases. The organization was set up by key research and health institutions, notably from the public sector in neglected-disease-endemic countries – the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation from Brazil, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and France's Pasteur Institute, with seed funding from Médecins Sans Frontières' (MSF) 1999 Nobel Peace Prize. The WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) acts as a permanent observer to the initiative.[citation needed]

Non-profit drug development model[edit]

As people with neglected diseases do not represent a lucrative market for pharmaceutical companies, incentives to invest in research and development are lacking for these diseases.[8][9]

Alternatives to profit-driven drug development emerged in the early 2000s to meet the needs of these neglected patients. Product development partnerships (PDPs), also called public-private partnerships (PPPs) aim to implement and accelerate research and development (R&D) into health tools (diagnostics, vaccines, drugs) for diseases that are neglected, by enabling new collaborations between private industry, academia, and the public sector.[10] Examples of PDPs include the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, MMV, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), and DNDi.[citation needed]

PDPs act as ‘conductors of a virtual orchestra’,[11] leveraging partners' specific assets, capacities, and expertise to implement projects at all stages of the R&D process, integrating capabilities from academia; public-sector research institutions, particularly in neglected disease-endemic countries; pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies; non-governmental organizations including other PDPs; and governments worldwide.

To overcome the lack of commercial research into drug development, PDPs can apply "delinkage" principles that aim to separate the cost of research and development from the price of products. This allows the incentive for investing in a particular disease to be independent of the price at which any developed products will be sold.[12]

Key achievements[edit]

To date, DNDi has delivered eight new treatments and built a large drug pipeline for neglected diseases with both improvements on existing drugs and entirely new chemical entities.[13]

Treatments delivered to date:

ASAQ, fixed-dose combination for malaria, 2007[edit]

Launched in 2007, this antimalarial product is a fixed-dose combination of artesunate/amodiaquine (ASAQ). The result of a partnership between DNDi and French pharmaceutical company Sanofi, ASAQ, which is produced in Morocco, is affordable (available for only $0.05 for children, $1 for adults), is administered in a simple regimen (1 or 2 tablets per day for three days), meets the latest WHO guidelines for malaria treatment in Africa and was granted "pre-qualified" status in 2008.[14] Although developed without a patent, ASAQ is included in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and Essential Medicines List for Children, is registered in 32 African countries, India, Ecuador, and in Colombia, and more than 437 million treatments have been distributed.[15][16][17][18]

A technology transfer agreement has been signed with industrial partner Zenufa in Tanzania in order to provide an additional source of ASAQ. ASAQ was handed over to the MMV Access and Product Management Team in May 2015.[citation needed]

ASMQ, fixed-dose combination for malaria, 2008[edit]

The second antimalarial treatment developed by DNDi is a fixed-dose combination of artesunate and mefloquine launched in 2008. It was developed by an international collaboration within the FACT Project Consortium. It has a simple and adapted regimen, a three-year shelf-ife and a very high compliance rate. ASMQ is produced in Brazil by Farmanguinhos [pt]/Fiocruz and thanks to a South–South technology transfer, it is now also produced by Cipla. The latter was granted "pre-qualified" status by the WHO in 2012 and included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and Essential Medicines List for Children in 2013.[19] By 2015 it was registered in Brazil, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Tanzania, Vietnam, Niger, Burkina Faso, Thailand and Cambodia. By the end of 2015 more than one million treatments had been distributed. ASMQ was handed over to the MMV Access and Product Management Team in May 2015.

NECT, improved treatment for sleeping sickness, 2009[edit]

Nifurtimox-eflornithine combination treatment (NECT), a combination therapy of nifurtimox and eflornithine, is the first new, improved treatment option in 25 years for stage 2 (advanced stage) human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) also known as sleeping sickness. It is the result of a six-year partnership between NGOs, governments, pharmaceutical companies, and the WHO. It was launched in 2009 and included on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines and WHO Essential Medicines List for Children in 2009 and 2013 respectively. It requires shorter hospitalization than previous treatment, and is much safer than previously widely used arsenic-based melarsoprol that killed about 5% of patients. NECT is now used to treat 100% of the patients infected with HAT stage 2 in all 13 endemic countries.

SSG&PM, combination treatment for visceral leishmaniasis, 2010[edit]

SSG&PM,[20] a sodium stibogluconate plus paromomycin combination therapy, is a shorter-course, cost-efficient treatment option against visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in East Africa available since 2010. It is the result of a six-year partnership between DNDi, the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP), the National Control Programmes of Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the WHO.[21] It was recommended by the WHO Expert Committee on the Control of Leishmaniasis in 2010 as the first-line treatment in East Africa, and more than 10,000 patients have been treated. Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia have released revised guidelines recommending SSG&PM as the first-line treatment for VL.

Combination treatments for visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, 2011[edit]

Single dose amphotericin B and paromomycin/miltefosine/amphotericin B combinations were recommended by the WHO Expert Committee on the Control of Leishmaniasis (2010).[22] These treatments are less toxic than previous mainstay treatments, useful in areas of antimonial resistance, are shorter course and their cost is comparable with previous treatments. In 2010, a study investigating the three possible 2-drug combinations of amphotericin B, miltefosine and paromomycin was completed in India. All three combination treatments were shown to be highly efficacious (> 97.5% cure rate). A WHO Expert committee recommended these treatments to be used preferentially to current established monotherapy treatments for VL in South Asia. DNDi is working with TDR and WHO to facilitate their introduction and support VL elimination strategies.[23] DNDi conducted more studies, including a pilot project in the Bihar State of India (2012-2015) that demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of combination therapies based on amphotericin B, miltefosine, and paromomycin at the primary healthcare level, and single dose amphotericin B at the hospital level. Based on the study results, the Indian National Roadmap for Kala-Azar Elimination in August 2014 recommended use of single dose amphotericin B as a first option treatment for the treatment of VL patients, with paromomycin and miltefosine as a second option at all levels;[24] a policy also reflected in Bangladesh and Nepal. this removal of miltefosine monotherapy is an important policy change. This project has been a collaboration with the National (Vector Borne) Disease Control Programmes of India and Bangladesh, MSF, TDR, OneWorld Health/PATH, Bihar State Health Society, and the Indian Council for Medical Research.[citation needed]

Paediatric Benznidazole for Chagas disease, 2011[edit]

This is the only paediatric dosage treatment for Chagas disease, launched in 2011 through a collaboration between DNDi and Laboratório Farmacêutico do Estado de Pernambuco (LAFEPE). In November 2013, the Mundo Sano Foundation and DNDi signed a collaboration agreement to deliver a second source of the treatment in partnership with ELEA. The paediatric dosage form of benznidazole is designed for infants and young children under two years of age (20 kg body weight) infected congenitally. Thanks to its age-adapted, easy-to-use, affordable, and non-patented tablet, the new treatment contributes to improved dosing accuracy, safety, and adherence to treatment. The paediatric dosage form of benznidazole was granted registration by Brazil's National Health Surveillance Agency in 2011, and further endemic countries are targeted for obtaining registration. It was included on the WHO Essential Medicines List for Children in July 2013.[25]

Superbooster therapy for children living with HIV and tuberculosis, 2016[edit]

Among the many challenges of treating children co-infected with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV is the fact that a key TB drug negates the effectiveness of ritonavir, one of the main antiretrovirals to treat HIV. A DNDi-sponsored study[26] at five hospitals in South Africa demonstrated the effectiveness of ‘super-boosting’ or adding extra ritonavir to a child's treatment regimen. WHO has since strengthened recommendations to use super-boosting in TB/HIV co-infected children.[27]

Fexinidazole, 2018[edit]

Fexinidazole is the first entirely oral treatment for sleeping sickness (or human African trypanosomiase) due to Trypanosoma brucei gambiense. It was developed in partnership by DNDi, Sanofi, and others. The clinical trials enrolled 749 patients from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. Results published in The Lancet showed high efficacy and safety for both stages of the disease. Fexinidazole is administered as oral tablets for 10 days.[28]

In November 2018, the European Medicines Agency adopted a positive scientific opinion of fexinidazole.[29][30][31] In December 2018, fexinidazole was approved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[32]

Other project:

Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP)[edit]

In 2016, the WHO and DNDi collaborated to launch the Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP), a not-for-profit research and development organization that addresses global public health needs by developing and delivering new or improved antibiotic treatments, while endeavouring to ensure their sustainable access. In 2018, GARDP was organized as an independent legal entity.[33]


In 2003, DNDi won the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Development Cooperation category[34] for developing and delivering new treatments for poverty-related diseases including Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, malaria and leishmaniasis.[citation needed]

DNDi received the Carlos Slim Health Award in 2013.[35] Created in 2008 by the Carlos Slim Foundation, the aim of the award is to distinguish the people and institutions who are committed to improving the levels of health among the population of Latin America and the Caribbean.[citation needed]

In 2013, The Rockefeller Foundation asked the global community to nominate organizations and individuals who were making a difference for poor and vulnerable populations through innovation.[36] From those nominations, and the votes of individuals around the world, The Rockefeller Foundation selected three winners of the 2013 Next Century Innovators Award.[37] DNDi was one of the awardees.[38]

On December 11, 2015, DNDi won the national FINEP Award for Innovation.[39] The award was in recognition of an innovative R&D model that has delivered a new antimalarial drug developed in Brazil.[40]

DNDi received the prize for innovation in 2017[41] and the ‘cuvée 2018 de la Vigne des Nations’ in 2018,[42] both from the Canton of Geneva.

The publication Oral fexinidazole for late-stage African Trypanosoma brucei gambiense trypanosomiasis: a pivotal multicentre, randomised, non-inferiority trial published November 4, 2017 in The Lancet[43] was one of the two winners of the 2018 edition of the Anne Maurer-Cecchini Award.[44]

A short film about fexinidazole, a new treatment for sleeping sickness, was awarded the Grand Prix at the inaugural World Health Organization 'Health for All' film festival in 2020.[45] 'A doctor's dream' was produced by DNDi with Scholars and Gentlemen, a production company from South Africa.

Regional clinical trial platforms[edit]

DNDi works with partners in disease-endemic countries to strengthen existing clinical research capacity and build new capacity where necessary. DNDi helped in the setting up of four regional disease-specific platforms in Africa and Latin America including the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP) on leishmaniasis.[46] the HAT Platform on sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis),[47] the Chagas Clinical Research Platform (CCRP),[48] and the RedeLeish Network on leishmaniasis in Latin America[49] and continues to work with them.

Their mission is to define patient needs, taking into consideration the local conditions, bring together key regional actors in the field of health, reinforce clinical capacities in endemic regions, address infrastructural requirements where necessary and provide on-site training.[50]

Long-term objective[edit]

DNDi plans to develop 16-18 new treatments by 2023.[51]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Nature Outlook Chagas Disease supplement. Nature Supplement, 2010 June, Vol. 465, No. 7301 suppl. ppS3-S22
  2. ^ Lallemant, Marc; Chang, Shing; Cohen, Rachel; Pécoul, Bernard (18 August 2011). "Pediatric HIV - A Neglected Disease ?". The New England Journal of Medicine. 365 (7): 581–583. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1107275. PMID 21848457. S2CID 45639453.
  3. ^ The Lancet, "Bernard Pécoul: championing the cause of neglected diseases" - August 2010
  4. ^ World Health Organization, 2019.[full citation needed]
  5. ^ Third WHO report on neglected tropical diseases, Investing to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases, 2015.
  6. ^ "Drug Development For Neglected Diseases: A Deficient Market and a Public-Health Policy Failure" By Patrice Trouiller, Piero Olliaro, Els Torreele, James Orbinski, Richard Laing, and Nathan Ford. The Lancet. June 22, 2002.
  7. ^ The drug and vaccine landscape for neglected diseases (2000—11): a systematic assessment By Belen Pedrique B, Strub-Wourgaft N, Some C, Olliaro P, Trouiller P, Ford N, Pécoul B, Bradol JH. The Lancet Global Health, October 2013.
  8. ^ Fatal Imbalance: The Crisis in Research and Development for Drugs for Neglected Diseases”. MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Working Group. Geneva, 2001.
  9. ^ «Kinetoplastida: New Therapeutic Strategies" By Croft SL. Parasite 2008; 15:522-27
  10. ^ « Drug Development for Neglected Tropical Diseases : DNDi and the Product Development Partnership (PDP) Model », Julia Tuttle, A thesis submitted to the Department of Global Health for honors, Duke University, 2016.
  11. ^ « Ten years of experience & lessons learned by DNDi », DNDi, 2014.
  12. ^ « Drug Development for Neglected Tropical Diseases : DNDi and the Product Development Partnership (PDP) Model », Julia Tuttle, A thesis submitted to the Department of Global Health for honours, Duke University, 2016.
  13. ^ "Portfolio". www.dndi.org. 13 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Malaria Treatment". 28 February 2007.
  15. ^ WHO Essential Medicines List
  16. ^ Essential Medicines List for Children
  17. ^ Bompart François (2011). "Innovative public-private partnerships to maximize the delivery of anti-malarial medicines: lessons learned from the ASAQ Winthrop experience". Malaria Journal. 10: 143. doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-143. PMC 3117751. PMID 21605364.
  18. ^ Lacaze Catherine (2011). "The initial pharmaceutical development of an artesunate/amodiaquine oral formulation for the treatment of malaria: a public-private partnership". Malaria Journal. 10: 142. doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-142. PMC 3128010. PMID 21605361.
  19. ^ WHO Essential Medicines List and Essential Medicines List for Children
  20. ^ Musa, Ahmed (19 June 2012). "Sodium Stibogluconate (SSG) & Paromomycin Combination Compared to SSG for Visceral Leishmaniasis in East Africa: A Randomised Controlled Trial". PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 6 (6): e1674. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001674. PMC 3378617. PMID 22724029.
  21. ^ Freitas-Junior Lucio H., Chatelain Eric, Andrade Kim Helena, Siqueira-Neto Jair L. (2012). "Visceral leishmaniasis treatment: What do we have, what do we need and how to deliver it?". International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance. 2: 11–19. doi:10.1016/j.ijpddr.2012.01.003. PMC 3862432. PMID 24533267.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ WHO Expert Committee on the Control of Leishmaniasis
  23. ^ Sundar, Shyam; Sinha, Prabhat Kumar; Rai, Madhukar; Verma, Deepak Kumar; Nawin, Kumar; Alam, Shanawwaj; Chakravarty, Jaya; Vaillant, Michel; Verma, Neena; Pandey, Krishna; Kumari, Poonam; Lal, Chandra Shekhar; Arora, Rakesh; Sharma, Bhawna; Ellis, Sally; Strub-Wourgaft, Nathalie; Balasegaram, Manica; Olliaro, Piero; Das, Pradeep; Modabber, Farrokh (2011). "Comparison of short-course multidrug treatment with standard therapy for visceral leishmaniasis in India: An open-label, non-inferiority, randomised controlled trial". The Lancet. 377 (9764): 477–86. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62050-8. PMID 21255828.
  24. ^ Indian National Roadmap for Kala-Azar Elimination
  25. ^ WHO Essential Medicines List for Children
  26. ^ Rabie, Helena; Denti, Paolo; Lee, Janice; Masango, Mhleli; Coovadia, Ashraf; Pillay, Sandy; Liberty, Afaaf; Simon, François; McIlleron, Helen (2019-01-01). "Lopinavir–ritonavir super-boosting in young HIV-infected children on rifampicin-based tuberculosis therapy compared with lopinavir–ritonavir without rifampicin: a pharmacokinetic modelling and clinical study". The Lancet HIV. 6 (1): e32–e42. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(18)30293-5. ISSN 2352-3018. PMID 30529029.
  27. ^ WHO Guidelines - The use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection, 2016
  28. ^ "Fexinidazole | DNDi". Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). 31 December 2004. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  29. ^ "European Medicines Agency recommends fexinidazole, the first all-oral treatment for sleeping sickness | DNDi". Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). 15 November 2018. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  30. ^ Jr, Donald G. McNeil (2018-11-16). "Rapid Cure Approved for Sleeping Sickness, a Horrific Illness". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  31. ^ CZARSKA-THORLEY, Dagmara (2018-11-16). "CHMP recommends first oral-only treatment for sleeping sickness". European Medicines Agency. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  32. ^ "Fexinidazole, the first all-oral treatment for sleeping sickness, approved in Democratic Republic of Congo | DNDi". Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). 29 January 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  33. ^ "GARDP set up as independent legal entity". Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  34. ^ "DNDi Receives the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Development Cooperation" (Press release). Madrid, Spain: Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative. 18 June 2013. Retrieved 2022-03-28.
  35. ^ Carlos Slim Health Award in 2013
  36. ^ "Carlos Slim Award".
  37. ^ 2013 Next Century Innovators Award
  38. ^ "Next Century Innovators Award".
  39. ^ "DNDi receives FINEP Award". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12.
  40. ^ "Finep Award". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12.
  41. ^ Prix de l'innovation 2017 CCIG DSE OPI - Bernard Pécoul, DNDi, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2020-02-06
  42. ^ OB (2019-09-17). "La cuvée de la Vigne des Nations 2018 soigne une organisation internationale". TDG (in French). ISSN 1010-2248. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  43. ^ Mesu, Victor Kande Betu Ku; Kalonji, Wilfried Mutombo; Bardonneau, Clélia; Mordt, Olaf Valverde; Blesson, Séverine; Simon, François; Delhomme, Sophie; Bernhard, Sonja; Kuziena, Willy; Lubaki, Jean-Pierre Fina; Vuvu, Steven Lumeya (2018-01-13). "Oral fexinidazole for late-stage African Trypanosoma brucei gambiense trypanosomiasis: a pivotal multicentre, randomised, non-inferiority trial". The Lancet. 391 (10116): 144–154. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32758-7. ISSN 0140-6736. PMID 29113731.
  44. ^ "The previous Awards". fondationannemaurer.ch. Retrieved 2020-02-13.
  45. ^ "Award winners". www.who.int. Retrieved 2020-05-19.[dead link]
  46. ^ Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform
  47. ^ HAT Platform
  48. ^ Chagas Clinical Research Platform
  49. ^ RedeLeish Network
  50. ^ "Strengthening Capacity".
  51. ^ "DNDi Business Plan". 16 February 2016.

External links[edit]