"It is no longer possible to say that people aren’t trying hard enough, or thinking creatively enough, to solve the problem of neglected diseases," wrote Erica Check in a feature in Foreign Policy magazine entitled Quest for the Cure.
Check's article profiled researchers such as Peter Hotez, of the Human Hookworm Vaccine Initiative, Victoria Hale, CEO of the Institute for OneWorld Health (a non-profit drug company), and Richard Chaisson, an infectious disease researcher at Johns Hopkins University, who is leading trials of moxifloxacin for treating TB in Brazil. "If people like Chaisson, Hotez, and Hale are not given enough support," wrote Check, "it will be an indictment of the system itself. Whether or not their science ends in success, it may tell us something about the world’s collective moral health."
So what's the verdict on the state of the "world's collective moral health"? Well, as the PLoS Medicine editors reported in our 2005 editorial on neglected diseases, there are four key signs of wellbeing: the recent explosion in public-private partnerships that are developing new drugs for neglected diseases; the rise of the "innovative developing countries" (such as Brazil and India), which have built the infrastructure to conduct their own neglected-disease research; the growing interest in creating an integrated package of existing disease control tools; and the recent support from the international donor community for controlling neglected tropical diseases.
In that editorial, we hinted that "PLoS is exploring the feasibility of launching a new journal devoted specifically to these diseases." At that time, we were still looking for a funding partner to help support the launch. I'm delighted to say that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a grant to PLoS to launch the world's first open access journal specifically devoted to the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). As Gina Rabonovich of the Gates Foundation said in the press release announcing the journal, "The launch of this journal is a sign that interest in neglected diseases is on the rise, as is the pace of scientific progress."
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases will begin accepting papers in 2007. Peter Hotez, the Editor-in-Chief, has appointed an impressive international editorial board, and hopes that the journal "will be both catalytic and transformative in promoting science, policy, and advocacy for these diseases of the poor." Peter will have a chance to discuss the journal at the Clinton Global Initiatives meeting next week in New York City; he'll be on a panel with Jimmy Carter talking about NTD control. If you want to be kept up to date on the progress of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, please sign up for an electronic alert. By supporting our newest journal, you'll be helping in the fight against the forgotten diseases of the world's forgotten people.