Less Neglect, More Openness: Two ‘Grand Experiments’ In Health Innovation

Bernard Pécoul | PLOS.org | November 28, 2013

Commemorating the 10th Anniversaries of PLOS and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of DNDi, discusses the innovative journeys of the organisations.

This is the first of two posts which will culminate in a new PLOS Collection launching on December 4th, highlighting the valuable work of DNDi published in PLOS throughout the years. This special DNDi anniversary will also be celebrated at the Institut Pasteur from the 4-5th December.

For those of us who experienced first-hand what it meant as doctors, working in very remote areas of developing countries, to be simply unable to appropriately treat patients with life-threatening conditions, the anger we felt at the dearth of R&D a decade ago changed us and led us to act, notably through the MSF Access Campaign. In 2001, a publication that analysed a 25-year period (1974 to 1999) showed that only 1.1 % of new drugs were approved specifically for neglected diseases, and this against the background of a global disease burden of 12%. In the neglected disease R&D community we referred to this as the ‘fatal imbalance’, rooted in market and policy failures. The foundations of DNDi and PLOS – two ‘experiments’ in innovation initiated 10 years ago – were part of what we can call today, with hindsight, a paradigm shift.