American Leprosy Missions Awards $41,000 for Innovation in NTDs

Sep 11, 2020

(Greenville, S.C., September 10, 2020) — American Leprosy Missions awarded $35,000 in this year’s NTD Innovation Prize during the virtual NTD NGO Network Conference closing session. Funded in partnership with Novartis, this year’s Prize included a $20,000 award and a $15,000 award.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than one billion of the world’s most vulnerable people. These diseases can lead to increased poverty, stigma and isolation, malnutrition, and lifelong disabilities. The NTD Innovation Prize is designed to encourage and support new ideas that will create positive change for people affected.

The first award of $20,000 went to Dr. Hugues Nana Djeunga and M. Arnauld Efon Ekangouo at the Centre for Research on Filariasis and other Tropical Diseases (CRFilMT) in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Their project will explore cell-free DNA analysis as a non-invasive way to diagnose onchocerciasis. This step would eliminate the need for skin samples, which are painful to patients.

DNA Model

The $20,000 winning proposal will test a new diagnostic process for the disease onchocerciasis using cell-free DNA.

The $15,000 award was made to Dr. Deanna Hagge, Dr. Suwash Baral, and Dr. Arie de Kruijff from The Leprosy Mission and their colleague Dr. Janis Spigulis from the University of Latvia. Their collaborative project will test a new way to diagnose leprosy using spectral imaging to recognize skin lesions, based on similar work done on melanoma. When connected to a mobile device, this method of identifying leprosy could be implemented in the field rather than a lab, saving time in the diagnostic process.

Both this year’s winning proposals pursue new forms of testing for NTDs while improving the test experience for people affected. The 2021 NTD Innovation Prize will open for applications in January 2021 at the NTD Innovation Hub.

Leprosy Skin Lesions

The $15,000 winners will explore spectral imaging as a way to diagnose leprosy skin lesions in the field.

About American Leprosy Missions

American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It currently supports projects, programs and partners in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to more than four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, disease mapping and management, community development and research.

For Additional Information

Sarah Hesshaus, Vice President of Business Process and Communications
864.241.1731 | [email protected]