Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation


The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to discover and develop treatments for diseases considered “neglected” or ignored, and for others related to poverty and underdevelopment. It was created in 2003 through the efforts of seven public and private institutions: MSF, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil, the Malaysian Ministry of Health, the Pasteur Institute (France) and the World Health Organization’s Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. In addition to its headquarters, it has eight regional offices around the world. The Board is chaired by Marie-Paule Kieny, while Luis Pizarro has been the organization’s Executive Director since 2002. The initiative receives funding from public and private entities. Throughout its history, it has received funds from the European Union (2017 Princess of Asturias Award for Concord), the World Health Organization (2009 Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2006 Prince of Asturias for International Cooperation), the Carlos Slim Foundation and the “La Caixa” Foundation, among many others.

According to data provided by the organization, one in five people worldwide (five hundred million of whom are children) suffers from at least one neglected disease. Their low incidence with respect to other types of ailments means that the development of drugs or treatments for them is not economically profitable. DNDi’s strategy is based on addressing the problem through working with the actors involved in the healthcare sector to enable not only treatments for these diseases to be created, but also affordable access to them.

Video: "DNDi: 15 years of putting patients before profits"

In partnership with pharmaceutical companies, it designs drug research, development and distribution projects; agrees on co-sponsorship projects for clinical studies and joint work with ministries of health and public institutions; and works together with knowledge and research centres around the world (universities, institutes, etc.) to reach the affected communities and patients, whose participation is key to covering the so-called “last step” of the process.

More than two hundred partners in over forty countries form part of this network that has managed to develop twelve treatments for six diseases so far. The pathologies which DNDi currently focuses its work on are river blindness (filariasis), sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis, hepatitis C, malaria, cryptococcal meningitis, dengue fever, HIV, mycetoma and, in recent years, COVID-19. It undertakes an average of twenty clinical studies each year and maintains nine R&D projects in phase III and in the registration process. Its Strategic Plan for the 2021-2028 period aims to obtain between fifteen and eighteen treatments and between eight and ten new medicines, promote inclusive and sustainable solutions (implementing, for example, half of phase I clinical trials in endemic countries), work hand-in-hand with more than fifty strategic partners to build coalitions with effective political impact and assess the feasibility and define priorities for the development of treatments among diseases which are candidates for inclusion in the DNDi portfolio, including dengue, snakebite and schistosomiasis.





Democratic Republic of Congo



Vídeo: "A doctor's dream: A pill for sleeping sickness"


The DNDi has received the Frontiers of Knowledge Award from the BBVA Foundation (Spain, 2013). Founder and former executive director of DNDi Bernard Pécoul collected the Prince Mahidol Award (Thailand) in 2022, which he had been awarded in 2020.


At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, composed of Pedro Luis Alonso Fernández, Maite Arango García-Urtiaga, Eugenia Bieto Caubet, Francisco de Paula Bisbal Pons, Andrés Conde Solé, Beatriz Domínguez-Gil González, Pedro Duque Duque, Rodrigo García González, Charo Izquierdo Martínez, Íñigo Losada Rodríguez, Mònica Margarit Ribalta, Sophie Muller, Sami Naïr, Carmen Noguero Galilea, Juan Carlos del Olmo Castillejos, Ana Pastor Julián, Rafael Puyol Antolín, Isaac Querub Caro, Ignacio Villaverde Menéndez, chaired by Gustavo Suárez Pertierra and with Manuel Toharia Cortés acting as secretary, has unanimously decided to bestow the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).

More than a billion people belonging to the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged populations –half of whom are children– suffer from a group of diseases that cause severe social stigma and millions of deaths each year. These are diseases neglected by research, industry and commercial development. In response to the problem, five public and private entities from Brazil, France, India, Kenya and Malaysia, together with two international organizations, launched this initiative to discover and develop effective treatments, as well as to make them accessible and affordable, in addition to adapting them to the affected communities.

In its twenty-year history, the initiative has developed numerous treatments for these serious diseases. Its strategy includes an ambitious plan to develop new drugs and treatments that will improve healthcare and save millions of lives worldwide.

Oviedo, 1st June 2023


© Fundación Princesa de Asturias


  • © Xavier Vahed - DNDi (1, 8, 11)
  • © Kenny Mbala - DNDi (2)
  • © Luke Duggleby - DNDi (3, 4, 10, 12)
  • © Ana Ferreira - DNDi (5, 6)
  • © Rowan Pybus - DNDi (7)
  • © Lameck Ododo - DNDi (9)