The Task Force for Global Health, a non-profit global health organization based in Decatur, Georgia, received a five-year grant totaling nearly $28.8M from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The grant, “Filling the Gaps – Operational Research to Ensure the Success of the Neglected Tropical Disease Control and Elimination Programs,” enables the newly established Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) to collaborate with the NTD community to address priority research gaps. Using the grant, NTD-SC will coordinate with partners to implement the research agenda for these diseases, while ensuring quick translation of new solutions into program policy.
The grant represents a further commitment by the Gates Foundation to the goals of the London Declaration, a pledge to end suffering due to NTDs, signed in 2012 by a community comprised of countries where NTDs are endemic, nongovernmental organizations involved in research and implementation to prevent and control NTDs, pharmaceutical companies, and bilateral and international donor agencies. The Declaration complements the World Health Organization (WHO) “Roadmap for NTDs,” a plan to control or eliminate most of the targeted diseases by the year 2020. NTDs threaten the lives and well-being of millions of people in some of the world’s poorest communities.
The grant enables The Task Force to tackle the shared challenges facing NTD programs everywhere – challenges that prevent programs from scaling up to reach success or sustaining reduction of disease prevalence – to ensure achievement of NTD programs’ control and elimination goals. “This support for operational research for NTDs could not be timelier: it coincides with the historic vote on 28 January 2013 by WHO’s Executive Board recommending that the World Health Assembly in May adopt a comprehensive resolution for all 17 neglected tropical diseases,” said Dr. Lorenzo Savioli, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases for WHO. “We are convinced the funding will help strengthen operational research, increase efficiencies and cost-effectiveness, and accelerate interventions towards achieving the targets set by the World Health Assembly, the WHO Roadmap, and the London Declaration.”
NTD-SC will use this innovative grant to build on existing research and thereby take advantage of new synergies to achieve rapid progress in the response to new technical challenges as they arise. Through a highly collaborative project structure – which includes the development of a “Coalition for Operational Research on NTDs” and an advisory panel comprised of leaders in the NTD community – NTD researchers will have a forum to identify needs, work together, and make the technical advances needed to maximize the impact of programs targeting NTDs.
Dr. Patrick Lammie, Senior Scientist in the Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will be the principal investigator on the grant, joining an established team at the Task Force for Global Health led by Drs. Eric Ottesen and Dominique Kyelem. Dr. Lammie noted, “The investment of research funding by the Gates Foundation provides the NTD community with an unparalleled opportunity to work together to address critical challenges facing NTD elimination programs.” Regarding the potential impact of research funding on the goal of eliminating these diseases, Dr. Lammie added, “Research is essential to accomplish the goals of the London Declaration. This grant, and the resulting research priorities, will have a significant impact on advancing research and development through new partnerships and enhanced collaboration at national and international levels. We are very excited to have this opportunity to work with the NTD community in an innovative and meaningful way in order to ensure we have the research necessary to achieve control and elimination goals.”
Dr. Dominique Kyelem, a native of Burkina Faso, is enthusiastic about supporting the global efforts against these diseases: “In Africa, we are plagued by disabling elephantiasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis, intestinal parasites, and blinding trachoma. This grant will support the research needed by program managers in my country and many others to eliminate and control these dreaded diseases.”
About the Task Force for Global Health: The Task Force for Global Health (The Task Force) is a not-for-profit, public health organization with a 28-year history of using collaboration to improve the lives and health of millions of people around the world. The Task Force works with partners across sectors, disciplines, and communities. The Task Force brings people together to improve the way health information is used and to apply resources efficiently to address global health challenges. The organization hosts a breadth of global health initiatives related to neglected tropical diseases, vaccine equity, and increasing capacity for global health programs. (www.taskforce.org)
About the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center: The Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC) is a program of The Task Force for Global Health. It builds on the foundation of the former Lymphatic Filariasis Support Center. The NTD-SC’s mandate includes operational research on shared issues confronting lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, and trachoma.