22 April 2019 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Research Partnerships Workshop at the Leprosy Research Initiative Annual Meeting

A workshop on research partnerships, held during the Leprosy Research Initiative (LRI) annual meeting 4-5 April, yielded several innovative and exciting potential collaborations. After a comparison of the LRI and Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL) research agendas (both in the process of being finalized and very closely aligned), participants then broke into small groups to discuss how they might collaborate across institutions, disciplines and countries.

Among the ideas to be further explored is the interest of one group in a multi-country proposal on stigma, to address the four priority areas outlined in the partnership’s Research Agenda. A second group plans to explore how to harmonize and improve laboratory diagnostic quality, including sample sharing and external quality assessments. Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development is underway in a Microsoft/Novartis Foundation project, and a diagnostic test would be very impactful.

The group felt that there is a need for further vaccine studies, including advancing the product pipeline by doing more studies in armadillos, and assessing promising vaccines from other areas. A meeting of those working in this area was suggested.

There is broad agreement on the PEP-related topics in both research agendas. More coordination is needed, including a panel where all those working in PEP can come together. A study into existing and new animal reservoirs may be needed to better understand transmission.

A group on operational research concluded that mapping and modeling are the keys to an investment case. The leprosy community needs to know more about the cost and cost/benefit of potential interventions. Good national data is important. Modeling and mapping could become a part of the partnership’s country-specific work, to inform governments and other stakeholders.

Prevention of nerve damage, living with impairment, and preventing the progression of disability, were key topics for a group discussing disability. A multi-disciplinary team would be helpful to study disability in different ethnic groups. It was noted that current calculations for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) do not reflect the true impact of leprosy on individuals, families and communities. The partnership has been in discussions with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation on this topic.

The GPZL greatly appreciates the partnership of the LRI on this workshop. We are working together to outline next steps for this collaboration. For more information on potential research collaborations please contact Courtenay Dusenbury ([email protected]) and Nienke Veldhuijzen ([email protected]).