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PLOS & DNDi launch a new Collection celebrating a Decade of Open Access and NTD R&D

In the second post in celebration of the 10th Anniversaries of PLOS and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), PLOS Medicine Senior Editor, Rhona MacDonald, discusses the new PLOS Collection highlighting the valuable work of DNDi published in PLOS throughout the years.

This special DNDi anniversary will also be celebrated at the Institut Pasteur from the 4th December.

As part of a collaborative initiative, PLOS and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) are delighted to launch a special Collection—PLOS & DNDi: a decade of Open Access and Neglected Tropical Diseases R&D—to coincide with a joint event at the Institut Pasteur in Paris celebrating the 10 year anniversary of DNDi.

Tsetse Fly (Top Left): Tam Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons; Hand (Top Right): cosmo flash, Flickr; Petri Dish (Bottom Left): Microrao, Wikimedia Commons; Hookworm (Bottom Right): CDC’s Public Health Image Library, Wikimedia Commons.
Tsetse Fly (Top Left): Tam Nguyen, Wikimedia Commons; Hand (Top Right): cosmo flash, Flickr; Petri Dish (Bottom Left): Microrao, Wikimedia Commons; Hookworm (Bottom Right): CDC’s Public Health Image Library, Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to being the same age, PLOS and DNDi have much in common. Both organisations have broken convention, both have pushed boundaries, and both have successfully combined the pursuit of quality scientific research and its publication with a strong advocacy.

In a recent blog, DNDi describe their history and their drive to prioritise the R&D of neglected diseases by putting it on the international health agenda and by facilitating networks of scientists from around the world. DNDi has shown that a new model in which public and private actors share knowledge and work together towards a common purpose can work.

Likewise, PLOS’s efforts have placed Open Access firmly on the international scientific publishing agenda and shown that a different model, which has demolished the publishing pay wall, does not rely on pharmaceutical advertising or reprints, and can measure the effect of scientific publications in a more meaningful way than impact factors, can be successful.

The Collection showcases the best of Open Access R&D for neglected diseases. The 21 articles in the Collection from across the PLOS journals highlight the journey over the past decade from advocacy, new innovations and partnerships, to the scientific research of new drugs.

For example, included in the Collection is the rallying call of DNDi Executive Director, Bernard Pécoul, first published in 2004 in PLOS Medicine, for governments from across the world to take an active interest in the R&D of new drugs for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Six years later, he joined with Peter Hotez, the founding editor of PLOS NTDs—itself celebrating its 5th anniversary this year—to give a joint Manifesto for Advancing the Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. Keeping with advocacy, published in PLOS Medicine last year, Suerie Moon and colleagues called for a new Treaty to Address a Broken Pharmaceutical R&D system and John-Arne Røttingen and colleagues detail the Recommendations of the Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development.

In case we need to be reminded why of such advocacy is still needed, in an article published in October this year in PLOS NTDs, Peter Hotez and Bernard Pécoul join forces again, along with co-authors from the Carlos Slim Health Institute and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, to share the Unfolding Tragedy of Chagas Disease in North America, discussing how the poorest people living in the Mexico and the U.S. are still silently suffering under the heavy burden of Chagas disease. In their article on the global estimates of leishmaniasis published in PLOS NTDs in May last year, Jorge Alvar and colleagues show that although estimated to cause the ninth largest disease burden among individual infectious diseases, leishmaniasis is largely ignored in discussions of tropical disease priorities. And writing in PLOS NTDs in 2010, Oliver Yun and colleagues explain how Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT; sleeping sickness), fatal if left untreated, still afflicts  sub-Saharan Africa, with only a minority of cases being reported.

But there is some more encouraging news. Other articles in the Collection highlight the positive steps in the path of NTD R&D. Published in PLOS ONE in 2010, Joshua Cohen and colleagues detail the drugs that have recently come through the pipeline. In an article published in PLOS NTDs in 2011, Palle Jakobsen and colleagues describe a successful public and private partnership, and in PLOS Medicine in 2010, Solomon Nwaka and colleagues describe the work of the African Network for Drugs and Diagnostics Innovation (ANDI).

As PLOS and DNDi celebrate and commemorate 10 years of Open Access and NTD R&D as shown through the Collection, it is also an opportunity for reflection and forward thinking. Where might the agenda be in 10 years’ time? At the end of 2013, every person with an NTD still cannot access the drugs they need to save or improve their lives and such drugs might not even be in existence. In 2023, might this unacceptable situation have changed? Might it be possible to drop the “neglected” and for tropical diseases to have the full attention of scientists, the pharmaceutical industry, and the wider international community? And what of Open Access? Might all scientific research be freed from the publishing pay wall and so be accessible to everyone world-wide by 2023? Although perhaps aspirational, PLOS and DNDi will keep pushing towards these aims over the next 10 years and beyond, with a view to making tangible progress along the way. We hope that you enjoy the Collection. Here’s to ten more years of pushing the boundaries!

Please visit the Collection here:

Dr. Rhona MacDonald is a Senior Editor for PLOS Medicine and PLOS Collections.


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