Tropical Diseases Research: Thirty Years and Counting

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, was launched in 1978, more or less the same year I began my career in science as a Yale undergraduate working on the then nascent molecular biology of antigenic variation in African trypanosomes. Over the next two decades as a MD PhD student working on hookworms at Rockefeller University, and then back at Yale as a postdoctoral fellow and a member of the junior faculty there, I was told on multiple occasions that the likelihood of my making a career in scientific research on neglected tropical diseases was not very promising. After all, neglected diseases were neglected for a reason, including the fact that the most promising options for my obtaining long-term support at that time were (by today’s standards) relatively modest funds from the Rockefeller Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF), and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) tropical medicine and parasitology study section. However, it turned out that through the establishment of some innovative networks, the stewards of those funding organizations were remarkably adept at leveraging those modest dollars into keeping alive a sustained effort for neglected tropical disease research. This carried the US neglected disease research community all the way until 1999, when funding scaled up dramatically with the entry of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, the support of the Gates Foundation is now being used to successfully leverage much of that earlier Rockefeller, BWF, MacArthur, Wellcome Trust, and NIH driven fundamental research into the development of new products and clinical testing for the major neglected tropical diseases.

Full article here

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