While the global R&D landscape for neglected diseases has improved since 2003, “the dire needs of the most neglected victims who carry on suffering in the developing world are still largely unmet”, warn Médecins sans Frontières and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi).

DNDi “has demonstrated through its work how innovative, needs-driven collaborative research and development can produce medicine adapted to our patients”, commented Dr Christophe Fournier, president of MSF’s International Council. Yet the Initiative and other public-private partnerships “cannot substitute for strong political leadership and commitment of governments to ensure people have access to lifesaving treatments for neglected diseases”.

The call for more sustainable R&D funding came as MSF, which co-founded DNDi with five public and private research institutes in 2003, renewed its operational and financial support for the non-profit organisation, with a commitment worth €18 million over the next six years.

According to a recent study by G-Finder, less than 5% of worldwide R&D funding for neglected diseases has been directed at the most neglected conditions such as sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. More than 500 million people are at risk from these three parasitic diseases alone.

Stimulating innovation and delivering effective, affordable treatments that affect the world’s poorest populations and fall outside the mainstream market interest “remains a tremendous challenge for DNDi and its partners given the lack of sustainable and predictable funding sources”, said DNDi executive director Dr Bernard Pécoul.