April 1st, 2014
Editor’s Note: Johnson & Johnson Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels will be participating in the “Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs): A Conversation on Progress” meeting in Paris on April 2-3.
Someone once told me a story about a young boy living in a severely underdeveloped village in Africa. He couldn’t have been older than nine. But, within his immediate family, he was the only one who could see. I asked my colleague why this was – was it something genetic? “No,” my colleague replied, “Parasites.”
The boy’s family had all contracted onchocerciasis, more commonly known as river blindness. This debilitating disease occurs in sub-Saharan Africa and puts over 120 million people at risk. At least 18 million are infected, leading to 750,000 cases of impaired vision and, in extreme cases, blindness.
River blindness is just one of 17 conditions referred to as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Collectively, NTDs affect more than a billion people worldwide, most of which live in resource-poor areas. But the growing need to combat NTDs has not been matched with resources and attention from the global health community.
But, we aim to change that.