April 08, 2018
2 min read

International partnership invests $15.5 million to combat neglected tropical diseases, TB, malaria

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Photo of BT Slingsby
BT Slingsby

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, or GHIT, recently announced that it has devoted 1.6 billion yen — or approximately $15.5 million — to advance investigational drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis and malaria.

GHIT is a public-private partnership between the Japanese government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the United Nations Development Program and multiple pharmaceutical companies. Since GHIT was first launched in 2013, the organization has invested approximately $123 million in 74 partnerships, according to a press release. To date, 28 “discovery projects,” 14 preclinical projects and seven clinical trials are underway in resource-limited countries. Three of these projects have reached phase 2 trials, and one will advance to phase 3 development later this year.

“This highlights that our business model, as a catalyst and investor of product development, is working, but the true measure of success is getting effective, affordable tools into the hands of every single person who needs them,” BT Slingsby, MD, PhD, MPH, CEO of GHIT, said in the release. “Now is when the really important work starts, and we’re ready for it.”

A large sum of the new investments (approximately $5.6 million) will support a partnership between Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited and Switzerland’s Drugs for Neglected Tropical Diseases initiative (DNDi), which aims to develop a safer, more effective treatment for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). According to WHO, there are about 300,000 cases of VL reported annually, mostly in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, South Sudan and Sudan. The disease causes more than 20,000 deaths each year.

About $1.4 million will go toward research led by the Neglected Tropical Diseases Drug Discovery Booster for both leishmaniasis and Chagas disease treatments. Additional funds ($0.8 million) will support another partnership between Nagasaki University, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. For this project, researchers will use CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing to analyze potential drug target sites in Trypanasoma cruzi parasites, the source of Chagas disease. WHO estimates that 8 million people are affected by the parasitic infection worldwide, and about 10,000 die from related complications each year. Nagasaki University is also partnering with Japan’s Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Netherlands-based Lygature and Leiden University Medical Center to develop a diagnostic test for schistosomiasis. The project will receive $0.7 million from GHIT.

“Thanks in large part to the pharmaceutical industry’s tremendous efforts and contributions, effective and low-cost treatments for [neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)] are becoming available and accessible through mass drug administration,” Slingsby told Infectious Disease News. “Nevertheless, no effective tools yet exist to prevent and treat other NTDs that are endemic to low- and middle-income countries, such as leishmaniasis and Chagas disease. The drugs that do exist are decades old, and many have unacceptable side effects or are only partially efficacious. GHIT's continuous investments in DNDi’s partnerships with pharmaceutical companies will accelerate critical product development to meet patients' still unmet needs.”

In addition to NTDs, the new GHIT funds will be used to advance malaria vaccines and new antibiotics for tuberculosis, according to the release. They will also be used to investigate anticancer drugs known as proteasome inhibitors and their potential ability to fight against drug-resistant malaria parasites. – by Stephanie Viguers


WHO. Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis). http://www.who.int/chagas/en/. Accessed April 5, 2018.

WHO. Leishmaniasis. http://www.who.int/leishmaniasis/en/. Accessed April 5, 2018.

Disclosures: Slingsby is CEO of GHIT.