The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined 13 drug companies in pledging $363 million to target 10 tropical diseases – such as Guinea worm, sleeping sickness and leprosy – that garner less attention than others around the world.
The goal of the new initiative, called the London Declaration on Neglected Diseases: eradication by the end of the decade.
If successful, the program could improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people, according to a press statement announcing the effort.
“Our members and researchers around the world applaud this unprecedented level of international cooperation to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people around the world who are disabled, blinded and suffer needlessly from neglected tropical diseases,” according to the statement by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
In addition to leprosy, Guinea worm and sleeping sickness, the targeted diseases include elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), blinding trachoma (an infectious eye disease), soil-transmitted helminthes (intestinal worms), schistosomiasis (a parasitic infection), river blindness, Chagas disease (a parasitic disease) and visceral leishmaniasis (sandfly infection).
The drug companies involved: AstraZeneca, Abbott, Bayer HealthCare AG, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi.
As part of the effort, the Gates foundation has pledged $23.3 million toward eradicating Guinea worm. The foundation, named after Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, has already invested more than $100 million in the effort to eradicate the disease.