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Health in Africa: Developing Drugs for Neglected Diseases

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Conversation with Dr. Monique Wasunna and Stephanie Davies
May 17, 2018
9:30 am -11:00 am EST

Please note that you can join the webinar via the internet or using local numbers for the following countries: Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States


Neglected diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness affect more than a billion people and many of them live in under-resourced communities in African countries.  But these diseases remain largely unknown with inadequate resources to develop treatment or cures.

Please join us for this webinar with guests  Dr. Monique Wasunna Director of Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative (DNDI) Africa Regional Office based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Stephanie Davies, Campaign Advisor for DNDI’s North America Regional Office in New York who will discuss DNDI’s work in Africa and its partnership with researchers and research organizations across the continent

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) is a not-for-profit research and development organization created in 2003 by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) with the money from its 1999 Nobel Peace Prize award.  DNDI creates safe, effective, and affordable drugs for neglected diseases. Founding partners include the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Institut Pasteur, and the Indian Council of Medical Research. Since its inception, DNDI has developed seven new treatments that have reached millions of patients around the world suffering from malaria, African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and pediatric HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Wasunna is a physician and an infectious disease and tropical medicine specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree from the University of Nairobi. She obtained an MSc and a PhD in medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians of London.

Prior to joining DNDi, Dr Wasunna held several positions at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, including Chief Research Officer and Assistant Director of Research, (Director, Centre for Clinical Research (1996-2007), and Acting Director (2007-2009).From 2008 to 2015, Dr Wasunna was a member of UNESCO’s International Bioethics Committee.  During this period, she was a rapporteur and a Vice Chairperson. She is a member of the Kenya National Bioethics Committee, the Kenyatta National Hospital and University of Nairobi Scientific and Research Ethics committee.

Dr. Wasunna is also a member of the Expert Committee of Clinical Trials of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, Kenya and the Founding Chairperson of the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform (LEAP). LEAP is a clinical research platform created by DNDi that brings together scientists and institutions in Eastern Africa to develop clinical trial capacity and to deliver new treatment options to neglected patients suffering from visceral leishmaniasis.

Stephanie Davies lead the efforts to raise awareness about DNDI’s work to develop a new treatment for African sleeping sickness. Prior to joining DNDI in 2016, she worked as a communications consultant for Amnesty International, The Nature Conservancy, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Northeastern University and as Director of Public Education for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in New York from 1997-2010. 

Stephanie created MSF’s Bracelet of Life Campaign to raise awareness about child malnutrition during the 1998 famine in Sudan and the Two Pills A Day Saves Lives campaign to support MSF’s presence at South Africa’s first national HIV/AIDS conference in 2003. She earned a post-graduate certificate in Education from Aberystwyth University, Wales in French/English as a second language and a Bachelors of Arts degree in European Studies from Bath University, England.


To learn more about developing drugs for neglected diseases see the following resources.

Why the World Ignores Diseases of Poverty

Mycetoma in Sudan

Pediatric HIV in South Africa 

Leishmaniasis in Kenya 

River Blindness in the Democratic Republic of Congo 

African Sleeping Sickness in the Democratic Republic of Congo 


  • Pre-registration is required. This program is open to funders, grantmakers, philanthropy advisors and program staff of philanthropy support organizations.