Nobel Prize for neglected parasitic diseases: Could it spur more treatments?

CDD is committed to working on neglected diseases for no other reason than because it is the ethical and right thing to do. Every year millions of our brothers and sisters around the world perish because they happen to live in a region where parasites, bacteria or viruses coexist for which treatments are not accessible, too expensive, too toxic, or worse still, they just have not been discovered. It seems almost too medieval to think that people are dying in the millions because of the equivalent of modern day plagues brought on by microscopic entities that have surrounded us in some cases for millennia.

Today we celebrate 3 scientists who made a dent in some of these diseases. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura won for their work on discovering Avermectin which lead to treatments for River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis. Youyou Tu also won for her work on Artemisinin as a treatment for malaria. An earlier post on this award put it in its historical context. These scientists have made a huge contribution but then so have thousands of others that will never be lauded in this way. Many scientists that we collaborate with are likely worthy of future prizes. Time will tell. What is clear is that this prize shines a much needed spotlight after some of the negative press in recent weeks on drug escalating prices at drug companies. How we build on this will truly be important.

We are doing our part for neglected diseases by continuing to host datasets at CDD Public (e.g. malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, etc.), by collaborating with others and publishing our research and sharing the results openly. Over the years our collaborations have borne fruit for tuberculosis, Ebola and for Chagas disease. With your help we can do the same and help to accelerate research on so many of these diseases. The award for Drs. Campbell, Omura and Tu is long overdue but a huge confidence boost for the field. It can only be hoped that larger companies that exited the field of neglected diseases in their quest for blockbusters, finally return in number and their investors allow them to pump some money into the field. We hope this happens for obvious reasons. Our vision of the future is one which is free of neglected diseases and we all have our part to play in this, whether ultimately Nobel Prize worthy or not.


Key publications:

Burg et al., Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (1979) 15:361-367.
Egerton et al., Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (1979) 15:372-378.
Tu et al., Yao Xue Xue Bao (1981) 16, 366-370 (Chinese)