International Partnership Set to Change the Course of Leprosy Research

American Leprosy Missions Helps Launch Ground-Breaking Collaborative Venture

(Greenville, S.C., September 17, 2013)—American Leprosy Missions, a global leader in the fight against leprosy, and its partners today announced the formation of the Leprosy Research Initiative at the 18th International Leprosy Congress in Brussels, Belgium.

The Leprosy Research Initiative (LRI) is the name of a ground-breaking collaborative venture to provide a much-needed boost to scientific research in the field of leprosy. The LRI is set to provide access to at least € 6 million – nearly $8 million – in research funding during the next five years. American Leprosy Missions has committed more than $1 million.

The LRI is a joint venture among the Netherlands Leprosy Relief, American Leprosy Missions, German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association and The Leprosy Mission Canada. Other organizations who share the vision of the LRI are invited to join.

“This is one of the most exciting collaborations that we have been a part of,” said American Leprosy Missions President and CEO Bill Simmons. “We are thrilled to play a key role in launching this international partnership that will pool resources to create a significant, sustainable source of funding for leprosy research.”

The field of leprosy has a long track record of collaborative work and funding of leprosy control and related activities through ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations. Although some research projects have been funded by multiple ILEP partners in the past, never in the long history of leprosy research has there been a joint fund to support such research. The LRI is set to change this.

Major advances have been made in the control of leprosy as an infectious disease, the management of its disabling complications and the rehabilitation of persons with leprosy-related disabilities. In the wake of the success of the global leprosy control campaign during the past two decades, the priority given to leprosy research has diminished considerably. As a result, funds available for leprosy research have declined. Consequently, many researchers have switched to other fields of study for which funding is more readily available.

However, despite the success of global control measures, leprosy transmission still continues with more than 200,000 new cases being detected annually. To address the remaining challenges, large international studies are needed to guide the implementation of interventions known to be effective, to guide policy in rapidly changing environments, to develop new tools to interrupt the transmission of leprosy and to promote the inclusion of persons affected by leprosy into society. Such research requires international collaboration among multiple partners and access to more funds than have been available in past decades. The intention of the LRI is to provide such collaboration and access to a sustainable source of research funding.

The founding partners of the LRI have agreed on a joint policy with clearly defined research priorities. They have committed themselves to establish a joint fund to support collaborative research projects and to establish a mechanism to access external funding. The LRI will be guided by a Steering Committee and all research proposals will be screened and monitored by an independent Scientific Research Committee with a track record of more than 25 years.

“By leveraging resources and international expertise, we are confident that the LRI will make significant progress in much-needed clinical, operational and practical research,” said Simmons. “This will ultimately help prevent and relieve suffering for the millions of people affected by leprosy around the world.”

LRI Steering Committee

W. Cairns S. Smith, OBE, MD, MPH, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Public Health (Chair)

Wim H. van Brakel, MD, MSc, PhD, Research Coordinator, Netherlands Leprosy Relief

Paul Saunderson, MBBS, MSc, PhD, Medical Director, American Leprosy Missions

Christa Kasang, MSc, PhD, Research Coordinator, German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association

Tom Gillis, BSc, MSc, PhD, Research Consultant, The Leprosy Mission Canada

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 operates in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. During its more than 100-year history, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, Christian outreach, prevention of disability, community development and vaccine research.

Press Contact

Sarah Hesshaus
Communications Manager
864.241.1731 or 800.543.3135
[email protected]

Research Contact

Dr. Wim H. van Brakel
Leprosy Research Initiative
c/o Netherlands Leprosy Relief
PO Box 95005
1090 HA Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 59 50 534
Mob: +31 6 30 35 99 35
Email: [email protected]

Netherlands Leprosy Relief –

American Leprosy Missions –

German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association –

The Leprosy Mission Canada –

International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations –