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Japanese Fund to Develop Tools Against Neglected Diseases

  • VOA News

FILE - A laborer tends to a field in the Central African Republic, despite his affliction with river blindness.
A Japanese global health fund has earmarked $12 million to develop tools to fight some of the world’s most neglected diseases. An estimated one billion of the world’s poorest people are afflicted with diseases like schistosomiasis, Chagas disease and parasitic roundworms, and another three billion are at risk of becoming infected. Many of the diseases, while not fatal, can cause malnutrition, delay children’s growth and impair their cognitive development.

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, based in Tokyo, announced that $3.8 million will go Switzerland’s Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative and Eisai of Japan for the development of a combination therapy for Chagas disease. The infection, transmitted by insects known as “kissing bugs” because they tend to bite the face, kills more people in Latin America than any parasitic illness.

The fund is granting $1.8 million for the development of a pediatric formulation of a drug used to treat schistosomiasis, a disease that’s endemic in 78 countries and affects more than 230 million people, including 100 million children.

And more than $1 million will be devoted to researchers investigating new drug compounds against the bacteria which play a role in the transmission of parasitic diseases including elephantiasis and river blindness (onchocerciasis). Together, these illnesses afflict more than 150 million people.

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund of Japan also announced additional funding of more than $5 million for work on a novel tuberculosis vaccine. The experimental vaccine is designed to enhance the immunity of mucosal tissue inside the nose to keep TB from infecting the lungs.