Today the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in Latin America received the Carlos Slim Health Award for 10 years of exceptional work and achievements in research and development (R&D) to deliver new treatments for neglected patients in the region. The $100,000 award will be presented at a ceremony in April in Mexico City.
"Without doubt we must celebrate that the jury decided to recognize the work done by DNDi in Latin America in the last 10 years," said Roberto Tapia, Director of the Carlos Slim Health Institute. "We hope this award sets a precedent for boosting further commitments for health innovations in Latin America. It is a call to encourage more actors to come together and increase discovery and development of new health innovations for poor, marginalized, and forgotten people whose health needs continue to be neglected."
The awards were given by the Carlos Slim Health Institute, founded six years ago by internationally renowned entrepreneur Carlos Slim Hel- of Mexico. The Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on key health issues affecting the most vulnerable populations of Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The awards are granted annually in two categories: Life Achievements in Research, and Outstanding Institution. Of 75 nominations from 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, DNDi Latin America was selected for the 2013 Outstanding Institution award for its exceptional work in the region on R&D for neglected diseases.
"Receiving the Carlos Slim Health Award is an honor, acknowledging DNDi's continuous neglected-disease research efforts in the Americas," said Eric Stobbaerts, Executive Director of DNDi Latin America. "Our primary focus is to deliver urgently needed treatments using a model that has proved efficient to fight diseases affecting millions of neglected people."
Marking its 10th year in 2013, DNDi and its partners have developed and delivered, through an innovative R&D model, six new treatments for neglected diseases since its inception. Two of these life-saving innovations were developed in Latin America: artesunate + mefloquine (ASMQ) for the treatment of malaria, and a pediatric dosage form of benznidazole for the treatment of children with Chagas disease, the leading parasitic killer in the Americas. Since its launch in 2008, approximately 260,000 ASMQ treatments have been made available to patients by the Brazilian public pharmaceutical manufacturer Farmanguinhos/Fiocruz.
The award will contribute to DNDi's current efforts to develop new, safer, more effective drugs in Latin America for Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, another deadly and debilitating neglected tropical disease.
The organization was nominated for the award by Dr. Carlos Morel, Director of the Center for Technological Development in Health at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil, and member of the DNDi Latin America Board of Directors.
While some neglected diseases are deadly, others cause and perpetuate poverty, trapping populations and countries in a vicious cycle where people, including children, fall sick and cannot work or learn, maintaining financial and educational problems for those forgotten families. Health is one of the most important requisites for economic and social development and tackling the archaic burdens of neglected tropical diseases should be a priority for international agendas.
Since 2008, the Carlos Slim Health Institute has given the Health Awards to 12 individuals and nonprofit organizations.
"We must celebrate the work done by DNDi in Latin America in the last 10 years, especially since this award was given by an institution from a Latin American country such as Mexico, investing in research on neglected diseases and vulnerable populations of the entire region," said Stobbaerts.