UN, Gates Foundation launch $30 million research effort for deadly diseases

22 May 2003

United Nations agencies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a new initiative focused on developing new diagnostic tests for the world's most deadly infectious diseases, increasing the possibility of early detection and treatment before spreading widely.

The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) was formed by the UN-backed Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and the Gates Foundation in response to the critical need for new tools to detect infectious diseases.

"The biotechnology advances of the past 20 years provide an opportunity to transform the way that we diagnose and treat disease in the world's poorest countries," FIND Executive Director Giorgio Roscigno said. "We look forward to helping usher in a new generation of diagnostics that will greatly improve the tracking and treatment of deadly infectious diseases."

The Gates Foundation has committed up to $30 million over the next five years to enable FIND - in collaboration with the diagnostics industry and other organizations - to apply the latest biotechnology innovations to develop and validate affordable diagnostic tests for diseases of the developing world.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) - which together with the World Bank and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) comprises TDR - said the biotech revolution has yielded important progress in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect affluent societies, but these advances have not been applied to diseases that kill millions each year in developing countries. As a result, many diseases go undetected and untreated in these poorer countries, accelerating their spread.

FIND will initially focus on speeding up the development and evaluation of new tuberculosis tests, WHO said. TB kills one person every 15 seconds, in large part because of lack of diagnosis and treatment. More sensitive diagnostics will open the possibility of treating the less contagious cases before they infect others.

WHO said the standard tuberculosis detection method, examining sputum under a microscope, was developed over a century ago and is time-consuming and frequently inaccurate.


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