World Health Summit 2023

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Building capacity and infrastructure in science and research to combat neglected tropical diseases

Berlin, 17.10.2023 - At this year's World Health Summit 2023, the DNTD's focus was on discussing capacity and infrastructure building for science and research in countries where neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are endemic. The focus was on collaborations, joint approaches and setting research priorities to combat NTDs by universities, civil society organisations and the private sector.

Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director Global Programmes on Neglected Tropical Diseases, World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out that effective NTD interventions require well-structured applied research studies coordinated with other research areas to build a solid foundation for implementing the NTD Roadmap 2021-2030.

Dr Michael Makanga, Executive Director, European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) emphasised that capacity in the fight against neglected infectious diseases depends highly on the development of local scientific excellence and leadership. Gender equity is a very important challenge. Investment would need to be made in multidisciplinary research teams with diverse talents, engaged in locally relevant research and enriched by international collaboration. (see slides)

Prof. Francine Ntoumi, President and Director-General, Congolese Foundation for Medical Research (FCRM) described the research network CANTAM (Central African Network on Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria). Since 2021, NTDs, among others, have been included in this EU-funded research programme, EDCTP. By expanding laboratories at different locations, a common platform has been created to support the training of PhD students. As a second example, she spoke about research to combat schistosomiasis in school children and pregnant women at the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL) in Gabon. (see slides)

Martin Bergfelder, Head of International Health Policy Unit, Federal Foreign Office presented the German-West African Centre for Global Health and Pandemic Prevention, which has been established since 2021 within the framework of a DAAD funding programme Global Centres for Health and Pandemic Prevention. The partner country is Ghana, where trans- and interdisciplinary research projects are being established. The focus is on the One Health approach, among other things, as pandemics often arise from human intrusion into wildlife reservoirs and contact with pathogens. The reason is often extensive agriculture. Climate change can also be a trigger. The programme includes PhD programmes and scholarships, as well as courses on pandemic prevention and preparedness.

Félix Calderón, Research Director, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) presented the research centre of the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation (TCOLF) near Madrid, which offers researchers the opportunity to conduct research at the Open Lab on neglected tropical diseases, among others. Independent scientists will have access to GSK's R&D facilities, resources and expertise to advance their own research into drugs for endemic infectious diseases. Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation acts independently of GSK and is not-for-profit. One challenge is to establish a legal framework to protect intellectual property on new developments, but also to allow free access and use.  (see slides)

Prof. Clarissa Prazeres da Costa, Co-director Center for Global Health, Technical University of Munich (TUM) focused her presentation on the involvement of civil society in research projects. She described the important role of midwives in rural regions of Pakistan, where integrated health systems are lacking, lack of knowledge or wrong information is widespread. Midwives are the important multipliers there. Through them, the neglected women are reached. They are key to building trust, providing comprehensive and respectful maternal care, and offering family planning counselling. Midwives can also be trained to recognise diseases associated with maternal health, such as genital schistosomiasis. This was implemented in a women's health workshop in Gabon. (see slides)

In the discussion, all agreed that international research in Germany against neglected tropical diseases is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) mainly through Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), but also through the funding of EDCTP as well as the funding initiative Research Networks for Health Innovations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The CYSTINET Africa network, among others, serves as a One Health platform to combat cysticercosis caused by tapeworms, which can develop into neurocysticercosis if it affects the brain and is the most common cause of epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa.

The panel was moderated by Prof. Dr. Achim Hörauf, Speaker of the DNTD and Director Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, University Bonn Medical Center and Dr. Carsten Köhler, Director, Institute for Tropical Medicine, University Hospital Tübingen.


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