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More than 90 per cent of all deaths from infectious diseases occur in the developing world. But only a small proportion of the world's research into new drugs focuses on diseases affecting the poor, such as leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and sleeping sickness.

In this article, Declan Butler reports on the newly launched Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), which intends to develop drugs to treat diseases currently neglected by drug companies. Spearheaded by the medical charity Médicins Sans Frontières, the US$26 million initiative aims to register six or seven new drugs and to have another eight in the pipeline in the next decade.

Many scientists and health experts are optimistic that the initiative will make an impact on world health. But other experts worry that the DNDi's network of partners – spread across the developing world – could degenerate into a bureaucratic quagmire, and warn that the initiative was unwise not to include drug giants and biomedical research agencies from rich industrialised countries as full partners.

Link to Nature feature article

Reference: Nature 424, 10 (2003)

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