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A New Era Of Hope For Neglected Diseases

September 9, 2005
Public Library of Science
New research suggests that long-held beliefs on neglected disease drug development activity are no longer accurate, according to a paper published in PLoS Medicine.

A dramatic sea-change in research into ten so-called "neglected diseases," such as malaria, leprosy and sleeping sickness, could result in at least eight new drugs being developed by 2010. However, lack of funding could lead to the collapse of the driving source of this promising new trend, according to an analysis in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

After a barren period when very few therapies were introduced for neglected diseases, which kill around 3m people a year and cause the loss of the equivalent of 92m years' of healthy life, there are now over 60 drug research projects underway.

In the PLoS Medicine analysis, which is based upon a 100-page report financed by the Wellcome Trust, Mary Moran of the London School of Economics found that around three-quarters of these projects are conducted under the umbrella of drug development Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs). Thirteen of them have already reached clinical trial stage and two are awaiting regulatory approval (rectal artesunate for malaria, and paromomycin for visceral leishmaniasis). These PPP-driven projects should result in six or seven new drug registrations in the next five years.

Research by Dr Moran and her colleagues has shown that PPPs have been a critical driver of this considerable increase in activity, and that the PPP approach brings together the best skills of both public and private partners. This model consequently performs better than either sector working alone when it comes to delivering safe, effective, affordable drugs for neglected diseases.

In a linked editorial, entitled "A New Era of Hope for the World's Most Neglected Diseases", the PLoS Medicine editors argue that Moran's findings are one of several indicators that the world is finally taking action against these diseases.

For example, the Gleneagles Communiqué arising out of this year's G8 summit specifically called for increased investment to encourage the development of tools for neglected-disease control.


Citation: Moran M (2005) A breakthrough in R&D for neglected diseases: New ways to get the drugs we need. PLoS Med 2(9): e302.

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