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Kigali summit ends with big pledge for disease research

Image: U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Pharma and Gates shoulder fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases

Last week’s Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases committed more than US$1 billion for research to speed up progress toward ending malaria and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and to Africa’s Covid-19 recovery.

The summit was held in the week ending 23 June on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer pledged US$1bn, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation US$140 million, Novartis US$100m, and the Wellcome Trust US$80m.

Melinda French Gates said in a statement that the Gates funding will be split between R&D support, national initiatives to end malaria, a mentorship programme for women, and in-country schemes to accelerate NTD elimination.

Philip Welkhoff, who heads the Gates foundation’s malaria programme, highlighted the importance of African leadership in reducing malaria deaths and cases.

“African countries are leading the way, and strong partnerships and increased funding are needed to increase access to life-saving tools and bring next-generation technologies and innovations over the finish line, to save more lives and end these diseases,” he said.

Vas Narasimhan, chief executive officer of Novartis, said the company’s five-year investment would focus on R&D on new treatments for NTDs and malaria.

“Over the past decade, great progress has been made against NTDs, but there is still a lot more work to be done. Novartis will continue progressing our longstanding commitment to helping realise a world free of NTDs,” he said.

The Pfizer donation is for the International Trachoma Initiative and the Wellcome Trust contribution is for snakebite treatments and additional NTD research.

According to the World Health Organization, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria worldwide in 2020, and 627,000 deaths. Africa bore the heaviest burden, accounting for 95 per cent of malaria cases and 96 per cent of malaria deaths.