Neglected Tropical Diseases – not quite so Neglected?

Bamako, Mali © iStock

What!? you cry … as a long-term researcher or advocate you likely despair that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) don’t even get 1% of the attention and funding that HIV receives. Or maybe you have never have even heard of NTDs .. so they must be pretty neglected.

Earlier this week the NTD anniversary event on What’s next for Neglected Tropical Disease Research? was held at the Natural History Museum hosted by the London Centre for Neglected Tropical Disease Research.

It was a packed lecture room and a packed programme; 15 short presentations – each only 4 minutes long, a bit like speed-dating science!

And the format worked .. all the presenters kept to time, they had their email addresses on the first slide, there were no long rambling questions, no grandstanding – we were told (in advance) to contact the presenter directly if we had questions – either at the reception afterwards or via email.

But what struck me most was not the format, the time-keeping or even the great research … it was the age and diversity of the presenters. It’s probably 5 years since I last attended a NTD event; then it was dominated by grey-haired white men, most of whom had been in the field for 30 or 40 years .. since the last heyday of tropical disease research.

Now the majority of the presenters were from a different generation – young, dynamic, in a hurry to change the world! No wonder the format worked so well.

In addition to their energy, these new researchers are also creating, developing and using new technologies and innovative tools. The massive benefits of the internet, computer modelling, data analysis and data integration, genomics, novel diagnostics, virtual training and coaching, and lots more, are all finally being harnessed.

With research revitalised, these devastating neglected tropical diseases are not quite so neglected and goals like elimination and eradication are potentially achievable. But they are also not quite so tropical – as they spread into Mediterranean Europe and the southern states of the US … but that’s another story!

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For more information:

The London Centre for NTD Research is a great example of collaboration – you can explore their research projects and publications at their new website.

The event was marking the Fifth Anniversary of the London Declaration on NTDs.

Overview of the speakers and presentations are in the event programme

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