Fighting diseases of poverty: Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi)

Neglected tropical diseases mainly affect poor and marginalised populations in low and middle-income countries who have no purchasing power. This is the main reason why there is no incentive for the private sector to develop appropriate treatments for these diseases. The private-public partnership Drug for Neglected Disease initiative based in Geneva develops and provides worldwide access to new and improved treatments. Swiss research contributes to these efforts.  

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Infectious desease
Health systems strengthening
01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024
CHF  8’000’000

Neglected tropical disease (NTDs) are a diverse group of infectious disease that prevail in tropical and subtropical areas in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people. Each year, more than 6 million people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) still die from NTDs for which vaccines, medicines and diagnostic tests are either ineffective or completely lacking.

DNDi is a Geneva-based not-for-profit research organization developing new treatments for neglected patients, strengthening research capacity in low-income countries, and advocating for innovation and access. SDC is supporting DNDi’s work since 2005. DNDi fosters collaborations among key actors in countries affected by these diseases, including health ministries, national disease control programmes, medicine regulatory authorities, WHO, academia, and civil society groups, as well as clinicians and health professionals. These partnerships also enable DNDi to develop treatments that respond to the specific needs of the affected communities and to deliver the treatments patients need. Since 2003, DNDi has developed 8 treatments for 5 deadly diseases (sleeping sickness, malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and pediatric HIV), saving millions of lives. Swiss actors such as research institutions (Swiss Tropical and Public Health Insitute) and pharmaceutical companies (Roche, Novartis among them) are key partners of DNDi.


Develop new and improve existing treatments for neglected tropical diseases, in order to reduce their global burden and to save lives and improve the quality of life for patients and populations at risk.

The specific objective is to deliver 11 to 14 new treatments between 2021-2028 (7-8 additional treatments anticipated in 2020-2023). 

Target groups

First beneficiaries: one billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, mainly in Africa and mostly those living in remote rural areas, urban slums or conflict zones.

Second beneficiaries: local clinicians, scientists, and experts in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Medium-term outcomes

Outcome 1: Regulatory approval and treatments registration in LMICs. New treatments are adopted and are part of the treatment guidelines.

Outcome 2: International organisations, governments, and Ministries of Health contribute to and are using R&D evidence to support policy change and treatment adoption and implementation, changing the way disease are managed, controlled and/or eliminated.

Outcome 3: Treatments are available at scale for patients in all communities at risk including women and children

Outcome 4: Treatments supporting efficient delivery health systems/models

Outcome 5: Sustainable R&D expertise in LMICs adaptable and usable for other poverty-related infectious diseases 


Expected results:  

- Deliver 11-14 new treatments between 2021-2028

- Conduct half of first-in-human Phase I studies
in LMICs

-  Develop and implement robust access strategies
with LMIC partners to ensure that new treatments
reach affected patients and communities.

- Contribute to and influence global, regional, and
national debates to foster R&D policies and practices
conducive to needs-driven innovation and access to
essential health technologies in LMICs. 

Results from previous phases:  

·  2018-2019: Development and registration of fexinidazole, a new treatment for sleeping sickness which is the first all-oral treatment, simplifying the medical and logistics aspects for patients, medical staff and health systems

·  2020: Advance towards oral leishmaniasis therapies for sustainable elimination of the disease in South Asia and control in Africa and Latin America,

·  2017: Approval of the first drug to treat Chagas disease

·  2019: Preparation for registration of a new treatment (ravidasvir) for Hepatitis C Virus in Malaysia and Argentina

·  2019: Development and rolling out of optimal child‑friendly antiretroviral formulations for kids living with HIV

- 2016: Successful launch of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) 

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Project partners Contract partner
Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • Other Swiss Non-profit Organisation

Other partners
Over 180 private and public partners worldwide
Coordination with other projects and actors WHO/ESPEN / SANTD (“NTD cluster”)
World Health Organization, Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, Medicines for Malaria Venture, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Swissmedic
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    8’000’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    1’600’000
Project phases Phase 4 01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024   (Current phase) Phase 3 01.01.2017 - 31.12.2020   (Completed) Phase 2 01.01.2013 - 31.12.2016   (Completed)