Research and development for new medicines is costly, time-consuming and almost always profit driven.

So when a disease affects only the poor, that market is neglected, often meaning no new medicines.

Kala azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, is one such neglected tropical disease. It is the world's second largest parasitic killer after malaria, killing 40,000 people every year, and yet no new drugs have been developed for decades.  

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and four pharmaceutical firms, Eisai, Shionogi, Takeda Pharmaceutical and AstraZeneca have announced the start of a ground-breaking initiative to accelerate and cut the costs of early-stage drug discovery for kala azar and Chagas, two of the world's most neglected diseases.

The consortium will circumvent early-stage commercial barriers between the four pharmaceutical participants, allowing DNDi, for the first time, to search millions of unique compounds simultaneously in the hunt for new treatments for neglected diseases.

This innovative DNDi model, which avoids the huge costs associated with developing new drugs by rallying pharmaceutical companies around the world to share their vast resources, is already proving successful, with a portfolio of 15 promising new drugs.  

Join Dr Javid Abdelmoneim as he travels to Japan, Switzerland and Ethiopia to explore how big pharmaceuticals are being mobilised in an unprecedented global initiative to find and fast-track a cure for kala azar. 

This film was partly funded by DNDi. All editorial decisions relating to the film were made by Al Jazeera. 

Source: Al Jazeera