Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are infectious diseases mainly impacting the most vulnerable and neglected populations. Although these diseases threaten over 1.7 billion people worldwide1, they receive little attention, as the name suggests. However, for 20 years, Sanofi has been actively working with partners to roll back several NTDs.
The story starts at the turn of the century. Africa had just experienced the third major sleeping sickness epidemic of the 20th century, impacting 40,000 people officially, but estimates reached as 300,000 cases2, which means a significant number of undiagnosed and therefore untreated people. Sanofi was at the time already manufacturing compounds for the treatment of sleeping sickness—one of the most neglected of the NTDs, and fatal if not treated.
The power of partnerships
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Sanofi joined forces to secure sustainable production and supply of treatment and support program implementation in the field. In 2001, WHO and Sanofi signed a five-year collaboration against sleeping sickness, promoting active screening and early treatment. In 2006, Sanofi renewed its commitment and the scope of the partnership was extended to three additional diseases: leishmaniasis, Buruli Ulcer, and Yaws and Chagas disease. At the end of 2020, Sanofi and the WHO renewed their collaboration for five more years, with the objective to eliminate sleeping sickness by 2030.
Sanofi has contributed $100 million financial support and drug donations in total to the WHO since 2001, in support of screening, capacity building, disease awareness campaigns and drug donations.
In parallel, Sanofi also partnered in 2009 with DNDi (Drug for Neglected Diseases initiative) to develop more an easier to administer and more efficient oral treatments for sleeping sickness, reaching patients living in remote areas. Following the roll-out of the first all-oral treatment in Democratic Republic of Congo in early 2020 , Sanofi and DNDi are now working on a second oral, single-dose drug which, if approved, will bring a simple, safe and effective treatment that could be administered at the point of diagnosis.
NTDs are a problem beyond Africa. In Colombia, cutaneous leishmaniasis, is a significant threat. About 95% of cases occur in Latin America, affecting principally children. Sanofi is supporting Cideim , a non-profit association dedicated to biomedical research in infectious diseases, to develop a new application to monitor treatment and outcomes of cutaneous leishmaniasis and to determine if the patient is cured or not.
“The key to success in fighting these diseases is a global and multisectoral approach”, says Luc Kuykens, Senior Vice President, Sanofi Global Health Programs. “I am proud to celebrate the two-decade collaboration between Sanofi and WHO , which is a testimony of the importance of private-public partnerships. It demonstrates that the complementarity of strengths and competencies can drive important sustainable achievements.”
20th anniversary of the collaboration between Sanofi and WHO