Seattle, October 3, 2014–Today, PATH announced a US$3.49 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support prioritization and development of new diagnostic tests for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). PATH, a leader in innovation, will direct this effort to catalyze the development of new diagnostics which, once made commercially available, will be critical tools in the global fight against NTDs.
Combating a global scourge
NTDs are a set of infectious diseases that affect more than one billion people worldwide, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. They cause significant illness, disability, pain, and suffering, and their effects are especially hard on women and children. Women often have to care for sick family members, limiting their opportunities as well as making them vulnerable to infection; children are also at high risk of infection, and their physical and cognitive growth are negatively impacted by these diseases. The effects of NTDs on health and development contribute to keeping the world’s most vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of illness and poverty.
Many NTDs can be treated safely and effectively on a mass scale, often through administering treatment to entire communities at risk of disease, which helps to reduce transmission of infection over time. Recent efforts have focused on increasing drug coverage worldwide and treating the most vulnerable populations. However, as mass drug campaigns are scaled up, it will be necessary to inform and direct these efforts by taking measure of their effect over time. This information will be essential to guide programmatic decision-making, such as when to reduce or stop mass treatment.
“PATH is responding to the call from the global health community to address a critical need,” said Dr. Anurag Mairal, global program leader of Technology Solutions at PATH. “We are proud to be a part of this effort to improve the lives of people in the world’s most resource-constrained communities.”
PATH will work with stakeholders to identify where the introduction and scale up of new diagnostic tools will have the greatest impact, evaluate potential technologies, and focus on the most promising new diagnostics. PATH will invest in diagnostics development with partners to create and test prototypes, with the ultimate goal of supporting the commercialization of a series of new high-impact diagnostic tests for NTDs.
Uniting to combat NTDs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has targeted 17 NTDs for control, elimination, or eradication by the year 2020. The fight against NTDs was accelerated with the signing of the London Declaration in 2012, a global movement that has united nonprofit, government, donor, and pharmaceutical partners in a bold vision to support reaching the WHO’s targets for 10 of 17 NTDs by 2020.
The need for new diagnostic tools has been identified as a critical gap in 2013 London Declaration progress reports. In order to steer programs targeting NTDs, diagnostic tools are needed that will allow for rapid and accurate detection of infections such as soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, trachoma, visceral leishmaniasis, leprosy, Chagas disease, and human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).
As part of its endorsement of the London Declaration, PATH is committed to advancing the diagnostic tools needed to support global control and elimination of NTDs. Greater engagement with the diagnostics industry will be critical to close the gap in available diagnostic technology for NTDs and enable the achievement of the London Declaration goals.
Accelerating progress in the fight against NTDs
PATH has extensive experience in developing and managing partnerships to develop diagnostics for NTDs such as river blindness. Over the next three years, PATH will leverage existing expertise and partnerships to coordinate product development efforts, identifying and focusing on diagnostic technologies that will have the most potential to accelerate achievement of targets for control or elimination of NTDs.
“The lack of sensitive, effective, and field-ready diagnostic tests for NTDs is a critical gap in the global health community’s ability to direct control and elimination efforts and track progress in the fight against NTDs,” says Tala de los Santos, group leader of Diagnostics at PATH. “With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH will engage the diagnostics industry to spur the development of new diagnostic tests for NTDs.”
In addition to supporting the development and evaluation of new diagnostic tests, PATH will work with partners to identify opportunities to advance commercialization efforts that will bring these products to market. Additional resources will be needed to ensure that tests are produced and made available to national NTD control and elimination programs. Once they are applied in the field, the evidence generated by these new tests will also help to guide policy and further political and financial support for NTD programs.
PATH is the leader in global health innovation. An international nonprofit organization, PATH saves lives and improves health, especially among women and children. Accelerating innovation across five platforms–vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations–PATH harnesses its entrepreneurial insight, scientific and public health expertise, and passion for health equity. By mobilizing partners around the world, PATH takes innovation to scale, working alongside countries primarily in Africa and Asia to tackle their greatest health needs. With these key partners, PATH delivers measurable results that disrupt the cycle of poor health. Learn more at www.path.org.