What better venue than the field's main scientific gathering to unveil a major new funding initiative for leprosy research? Four NGOs took to the floor at the 18th International Leprosy Congress to announce they will contribute 6 million euros (approximately 8 million dollars) over the next five years to fund international studies into addressing leprosy's remaining challenges.
Netherlands Leprosy Relief, American Leprosy Missions, German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief and The Leprosy Mission Canada pointed to the need for further research given that leprosy transmission is still continuing and many people released from treatment struggle with the physical or social consequences of the disease.
"In a way, the success of the Global Leprosy Program over the past two to three decades has seen funds for leprosy research decline quite substantially," said NLR director Jan van Berkel. "Frequently, researchers have moved into other fields because funding may have been more easily available. Therefore, we do not only join our funds under one policy, but we are also committed to making investments to attract more external funding toward the area of leprosy-related research."
The Leprosy Research Initiative has identified five priority areas for funding: preventing delay in diagnosis; early detection and treatment of nerve function impairment and reactions; "inclusion research" for people with leprosy-related and other disabilities; integration of prevention of disability in national programs; and the roll-out of chemophrophylaxis.
All research supported by the LRI will be reviewed, selected and monitored by an independent Scientific Research Committee.
"The LRI is unique because its members have established joint research policies and priorities and have given the LRI's independent scientific committee the authority to disperse their combined funds," said Bill Simmons, president and CEO of ALM. "The founding partners have agreed that this is the best way to insure sustainable funding for excellent, scientifically rigorous projects."
Added van Berkel: "It is only by working together and funding relevant, highly-qualified research that we can develop, in the end, the control programs and disability programs that we need that will one day bring leprosy and its consequences under control."
For more information, visit www.leprosyresearch.org