WIPO Director General Daren Tang on World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day

January 30, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how interconnected our lives have grown over the past decades, while highlighting the pressing need to work together to address ailments that ignore borders. Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), such as river blindness, cholera, dengue fever and others, may not make daily headlines, but they affect over one billion people worldwide and deserve urgent attention in the form of new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.

That is why WIPO each year marks World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day, to show solidarity with our partners across the global community working to improve the lives of people affected by NTDs, most of whom live in poorer areas of our world.

In 2011, WIPO and the non-governmental organization BIO Ventures for Global Health co-founded WIPO Re:Search, a public-private consortium that accelerates early-stage research and development (R&D) for the discovery of medicines and technologies to treat NTDs, malaria and tuberculosis (TB). It does so by fostering targeted collaborations that make intellectual property (IP)-backed assets – including expertise, data, molecules and molecular compounds – that may have been developed for other uses available royalty-free to scientists who seek to use them in research targeting NTDs, malaria and TB. The generosity of WIPO Re:Search’s eight corporate members (Eisai, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer and Takeda) makes this possible.

To date, WIPO Re:Search has established 166 collaborations globally, of which 53 are currently active and 11 are advancing through key milestones in the R&D process. Our 151 members – including academic and scientific institutions and NGOs – span 46 countries on six continents. 

One recent WIPO Re:Search collaboration enabled researchers at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, to use Ampli Blocks, an invention from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts, in the development of a reliable and flexible diagnostic method for schistosomiasis, an NTD caused by freshwater parasitic worms in tropical and subtropical countries.  Another WIPO Re:Search collaboration currently underway in Cameroon unites scientists at the University of Yaoundé I with those at Japan’s Eisai pharmaceutical company in early-stage R&D to develop novel drugs for human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and malaria. Last summer WIPO research fostered its first-ever collaboration (still underway) on snakebite by linking two scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) with Johnson and Johnson, which provided access to IP assets in two of its drug libraries to test for inhibitory activity against snake venom.

In 2021, we are celebrating WIPO Re:Search’s 10-year anniversary. Over the past decade, WIPO has demonstrated its commitment to the fight against NTDs, as well as to its broader mission of leading the development of a balanced and effective international IP system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all. I would like to reiterate WIPO's dedication to helping ensure IP and the global IP system work to improve the lives of people everywhere.