eglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is a group of about 20 communicable diseases that cause debilitating conditions and affect more than 1.7 billion people in 149 countries around the world. These diseases disproportionately impact the most vulnerable individuals in low-resource countries, including populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and living in areas infested with vectors that transmit these diseases. NTDs have a considerable impact on the lives of the people they affect, contributing to significant morbidity and long-term loss of economic productivity.
In 2012, Johnson & Johnson joined the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 12 other pharmaceutical companies to announce the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Inspired by the WHO NTD Roadmap, the Declaration launched a landmark, first-of-its-kind collaboration to help control, eliminate or eradicate 10 NTDs. Impressive progress has been made in the control of NTDs since 2012. At least one NTD has been eliminated from 40 countries and 500 million fewer people require interventions against NTDs.
Since then, Johnson & Johnson has continued our work to deliver lifesaving solutions for intestinal worms, also known as soil transmitted helminths (STH), and has also begun to explore potential solutions for diseases such as dengue fever, Chagas disease and leprosy.
Johnson & Johnson is developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based diagnostic tool to improve the accuracy of diagnostic methods used for several NTDs and to reduce the burden of reporting and surveillance for countries. Control and gradual elimination of these diseases are crucial and require the development of advanced innovative technologies to diagnose patients, who are often co-infected with multiple pathogens. Data quality is an essential component of making informed treatment decisions and coordinating mass drug administration campaigns that target NTDs.
The prototype which is currently being tested consists of an automated microscope with AI and data visualization tool. The AI counts parasite eggs that would develop into parasitic worms of STH. This automated counting process is aimed at being both faster and more reliable than the current survey method, in which a lab technician counts the eggs in each sample manually. Digital data storage and data visualization will improve the clinical decision making for drug administration by the countries. The prototype testing is ongoing and it will move into the clinical utility testing phase in 2021 through 2023.
Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with WIPO Re:Search, is also proud to make available its JumpstARter Library to drug discovery researchers in order to identify and advance promising drug candidates to ﬁght neglected infectious diseases. The library includes a diverse collection of 80,000 high-quality drug-like small molecules and compound fragments created to “jump-start” drug discovery collaborations.
The new chewable formulation of our medicine to treat intestinal worms is of added value in allowing easier treatment for children as young as 1 year of age. Our donation helps children grow and thrive to lead healthier, more productive lives.
Within our company, we recognize that more of the same won’t do. Instead, today’s evolving public health threats require us to undertake new and innovative approaches to achieve long-term impact for entire communities—not just individuals—in the world’s most vulnerable populations. This fight can only be won if we all work together.
By enabling basic research around NTDs such as Chagas disease, we are making a difference in identifying new targets and molecular templates that can be potentially developed into effective therapeutics. All of these efforts are contributing to our goal of being able to effectively treat and eliminate neglected tropical diseases.
The current multi-drug therapy for leprosy works; however, further simplifying and shortening treatment, developing alternative treatments in case of resistance to current leprosy therapy and being able to prevent transmission are what is needed to aid in elimination of leprosy in the world.