Adjunct Professor and NGDI-UBC Co-Founder Dr. Kishor Wasan recently discussed the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC
Dr. Kishor Wasan on Facilitating Not-for-Profit Drug Discovery and Development
Until recently, neglected global diseases were, well, neglected. But co-founder and co-director of the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia Dr. Kishor Wasan says that pharmaceutical scientists around the world are finding ways to work together to close the gap.
What Are Neglected Global Diseases?
A Lancet Global Health study published in 2013 found that of the 850 new medicines developed in the first decade of the twenty-first century, only 4 percent were for 50 diseases that are widely considered as “neglected.” The diseases include well-known killers of millions of people such as tuberculosis and malaria, and also the lower-profile but also deadly conditions such as parasitic and diarrheal diseases. Categories that had far more new treatments in development were mental health conditions, with 16 percent, cancer, with 12 percent, cardiovascular disease, 8 percent, sex-hormone and genitourinary conditions, 7 percent, and digestive conditions, 5 percent.
The World Health Organization curates a list of under 20 conditions that, combined, affect more than one billion people worldwide. These conditions thrive in locations suffering from a paucity of economic opportunity, where clean water, safe and adequate nutrition, and preventive care are in short supply. But many of these diseases are also prevalent in emerging middle-income economies, such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia.
Adjunct Professor Kishor Wasan Asks the Critical Question
Some neglected global diseases result in death. Others create lifetime handicaps and evoke social stigma. Overall, neglected global diseases are the leading cause of diminished quality of life, chronic disability, and lives cut short. Dr. Wasan and colleagues at the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative asked the question, “Why are diseases that affect billions of people not the subject of intense research?”
Why does diarrhea still kill over 2,000 children every day, more than AIDS, measles, and malaria combined? Why do 240 million people suffer schistosomiasis? How can seven million people still have Chagas disease?
But since the founding of the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at the University of British Columbia in 2009, and the emergence of similar efforts, diseases that have inflicted death and debility on billions of people for generations are beginning to receive the attention they need. The contribution of the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at the University of British Columbia, Adjunct Professor Kishor Wasan says, is to create a nexus for integrated research across bench science, biotechnology, pharmaceutical research and development, business, social policy, law, and more.
Continuity is Key, Kishor Wasan Says
The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative provides continuity of funding that enables sustained research activity and stable program development. The Initiative brings together the perspective and technical expertise of experts in a variety of disciplines to overcome barriers to the sustainable generation of life-sustaining, affordable medicines for emerging economies.
Adjunct Professor Kishor Wasan says that the University of British Columbia initiative stands out from similar endeavors in its ability to coordinate efforts from the identification of affected populations through the delivery of needed medicines. New drugs, vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, nano-medicines, micronutrients, and prophylaxis are being created by this unique platform for facilitating communication among all parties seeking relief of neglected global diseases.