Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine 2020

This year the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung foundation honors a project toward combatting human African trypanosomiasis – HAT for short. The award is endowed with 100,000 euros, money that will be used specifically for the project.
Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine 2020: Award winner Dr Florent Mbo

This year’s Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine acknowledges Dr. Florent Mbo with the project “Sleeping sickness in Africa: Fexinidazole has arrived! Project toward promoting simple access to the new oral medication against sleeping sickness” from the non-profit research organization DNDi, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative.
EKFS is consequently honoring a project from the sector that combats neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and contributes significantly to the sustainable elimination of HAT in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DNDi was decisively involved during the development of a new oral therapy using fexinidazole, as well as during the creation of a platform toward combatting “sleeping sickness.”

This year the award will be presented for the first time in the form of a virtual award ceremony:

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines NTDs as a group of 20 diseases, most of which have infectious causes and – unlike malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS – receive little attention in terms of research and combatting the diseases. Worldwide, 1.4 billion people in 149 countries are affected: each year half a million people die directly or indirectly from NTDs.

Dr Dirk Engels, former Director Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases, WHO

Project description:

Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that occurs in sub-Saharan Africa.

The majority of affected patients lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Transmission of the pathogen takes place via the tsetse fly, often in riverine forests or when human beings wash themselves by a river or get water from it. The parasites carried via the fly bite infest the central nervous system and, at an advanced stage, a number of neuropsychiatric manifestations arise: “sleeping sickness” leads to sleeping disorders, including an acute urge to sleep during the daytime and awake phases at night, as well as other severe psychological disorders such as states of anxiety and aggressiveness. When untreated, “sleeping sickness” nearly always leads to the patient’s death.

62%
of the cases reported in 2019
occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

For patients, the previous methods of treatment were associated with inpatient hospital stays and intravenous infusions. Fexinidazole is the first compound that permits a purely oral treatment of “sleeping sickness” – in the event that patients have not yet reached the complicated advanced stage of the disease. Patients can receive the treatment at home over a period of 10 days in the form of tablets.

Dr. Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft
,
Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases, DNDi

“Dr. Florent Mbo played a driving role in the fexinidazole project, coupling his expertise as a trained doctor and extensive knowledge of local health systems to coordinate partners across the DRC and other endemic countries working to scale up access to the new all-oral treatment and ensure health staff are trained on how to use it.”

Dr Florent Mbo informs the local population about the plans regarding an epidemiological study in the DR Congo (March 2017).
Antoinette Mpono Bukoy at Masi Manimba, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she received fexinidazole: “I will be treated and I will be cured."
Dr Helene, investigator at the Bandundu Hospita, examines a patient. Dr Mahenzi manages the studies and coordinates the team's work.
The fexinidazole tablet

As practicing physician and as authority with knowledge of the local healthcare structures, award-winner Dr. Mbo is making a key contribution to the project’s success. He is responsible for coordinating the scientific, clinical and programmatic exchange between different stakeholders and makes it possible for healthcare personnel to be trained and for patients to receive access to tests and treatment.

Dr. Florent Mbo
,
HAT Platform Coordinator & Access Senior Project Manager, DNDi

“We are thrilled that fexinidazole has been adopted as the first-line treatment for all patients diagnosed with sleeping sickness in DRC. Now we are tackling the challenge of ensuring the broadest possible access to this new treatment as we work toward the goal of achieving sustainable elimination of the disease.”

 

Dr Mahenzi, investigator at the Bandundu Hospital, examines a patient. Dr Mahenzi manages the studies and coordinates the team's work.
Jean Kitala Sedi, the first patient to receive fexinidazole for sleeping sickness following its approval and registration for use in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the health staff at Bandundu Hospital.
Fexinidazole finally arrives in Bandundu in DRC, one of the sites where the treatment has been clinically tested. Patients outside the study will now be treated with this all-oral treatment for sleeping sickness.
Dr Florent Mbo examines a patient in the DR Congo (March 2017).