Our work to deliver critical solutions to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) includes both ensuring access to our medicine for soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), also known as intestinal worms, as well as advancing R&D for dengue, Chagas and leprosy. In collaboration with WIPO Re:Search, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) share 80,000+ chemical compounds from its Jump-stARter molecular library with the global research community to help collaborators accelerate treatment and prevention of NTDs and other diseases common in the developing world. Our efforts are supportive of the World Health Organization NTD Roadmap and its 2030 global targets to reduce the impact of NTDs.
Our progress in 2020 in reducing the impact of NTDs includes:
Using data science to advance innovation in combating NTDs: We are currently working on the development of an affordable Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based digital pathology tool that will enable country programs to effectively monitor and target treatment for STH STH Soil Transmitted Helminths . The prototype currently being tested automatically counts parasite eggs in stool that would develop into STH parasitic worms, eliminating the need for lab technicians to manually read slides and reducing the burden of reporting and surveillance for country NTD program managers. In 2020, we formed a collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, through its Global Health Institute, to include schistosomiasis, an NTD caused by parasitic flatworms, in the AI platform.
Continuing to combat intestinal worms: Our VERMOX (mebendazole) donation program achieved its Health for Humanity 2020 Goal of one billion doses donated from 2016 – 2020. In 2020, our donations included 50 million doses of VERMOX to the WHO WHO World Health Organization to treat expanded populations such as adults and women of reproductive age. This donation enabled the END Fund to unlock additional philanthropic funding through its Deworming Innovation Fund to support treatment delivery and broader efforts to build health systems capacity in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya.
Johnson & Johnson’s donation will improve the lives of millions and fast-track progress towards the elimination of disease caused by parasites that have held back human progress for millennia.
Milestone in preventing dengue fever: Our first-in-class antiviral for the prevention of dengue, both for travelers and vulnerable populations living in dengue-endemic areas, was granted fast-track designation by the FDA FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2020. This is strong recognition of our efforts over the past seven years to combat dengue, for which there is currently no effective pharmaceutical prevention or treatment option. Our antiviral treatment is now in Phase 2a clinical development. Also, during 2020, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to collaborate with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to explore opportunities for research and innovation in NTDs with a specific focus on dengue fever.
Combating leprosy: More than 200,000 new cases of this ancient disease were reported in 2019,16 and we continue to investigate how to simplify and shorten the current multi-drug therapy regimen, address the challenge of drug resistance and decrease transmission. A Phase 2/3 trial is being planned to evaluate the efficacy and safety of bedaquiline in participants with leprosy.
For more about our progress in tackling NTDs, see our web page on NTDs.