January 30, 2017

Pushing Onward to Fight Neglected Diseases

Five years after the London Declaration, we can celebrate what we’ve accomplished. But we can’t forget how much still needs to be done.
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Dale Kempf (center), seen here with AbbVie scientist Augustine Osuma (left) and volunteer retired scientist Tom von Geldern (right), has led pro-bono research efforts in the area of NTDs.

In 2012, an unprecedented, public-private collaboration galvanized a coordinated campaign to eliminate or control 10 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by the year 2020.

More than one billion people suffer from one or more NTD, devastating diseases that disproportionately affect poor and underserved populations. Many are preventable and/or curable, but diagnosing and treating them is challenging.

That’s why AbbVie joined the United States, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, global health organizations and other leading pharmaceutical companies to sign the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases.

As the London Declaration celebrates its fifth anniversary, there is certainly cause for celebration.

According to United to Combat NTDs, nearly a billion people received treatment for NTDs in 2015 alone. Lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) has been eliminated in eight countries, trachoma (granular conjunctivitis) in seven and onchocerciasis (river blindness) in four.
Larger drug donations, more programmatic funding, a greater commitment to developing new tools and treatments, and sharing expertise and compounds is helping accelerate the development of new medicines.

Still, there is more work to be done – and London Declaration partners are launching a five-day campaign to both spotlight five major areas of progress on NTDs and raise awareness for the continuing cause.

The AbbVie Foundation works with MAP International to combat Chagas disease in Bolivia.

AbbVie and the AbbVie Foundation have focused on several of the 17 NTDs identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as most in need, including onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.  

“This is a great opportunity for AbbVie to play a real role in working toward alleviating some of the suffering of so many people,” says Dale Kempf, distinguished research fellow, discovery, AbbVie, who has led research efforts in the area of NTDs. “It’s also an opportunity for scientists to become involved in ways beyond their normal jobs to make a difference in the world.”

AbbVie researchers have contributed nearly 60,000 (and counting) hours to work alongside multiple partners to develop new compounds and therapeutic approaches for these neglected diseases, as well as for tuberculosis and malaria.

Kempf and his team continue to dedicate time, effort and expertise to supporting the discovery of new drugs for NTDs.

“It has been very rewarding working with the various partners and building relationships with people who are fully dedicated to bring a better life to those in need,” he says, reflecting on the past five years. “You hear the stories from the field …. These stories affect you quite profoundly. There’s truth to the line that neglected diseases are diseases of neglected people.”

Click here to learn more about efforts to tackle NTDs, including a case study by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Visit the Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases website and join the campaign on social media by using the #BeatNTDs hashtag.

What It Means to #BeatNTDs at AbbVie: The First Five Years

We’re only getting started – but here are some ways we’ve worked with our partners through the AbbVie Foundation to help #BeatNTDs:
  • Trained health care workers on the prevention, testing, diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease in Bolivia
  • Partnered with the University of Notre Dame to combat lymphatic filariasis in Haiti
  • Worked with MAP International to train community health care workers on the prevention and control of Buruli ulcer, focusing on early detection and diagnosis

Media inquiries:

Mary Kathryn Steel
Email: mk.steel@abbvie.com
Call: + 1 847-937-4111