Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD)

Discovering and developing transformative medicines for underserved populations impacted by major global health problems.
Academia or research institute 8
Private Foundation or Development Organization 3
Global NGOs 1
Product Development Partnerships 1
  • To discover and develop transformative medicines for underserved populations impacted by major global health problems.
  • To help strengthen capacity for high-impact scientific research conducted by scientists that live and work in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

What are the health needs and challenges?

The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), part of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, discovers transformative medicines for underserved populations impacted by major global health problems. Current focus areas include malaria, cryptosporidiosis, kinetoplastid diseases (leishmaniasis and Chagas disease), dengue, and viral diseases with epidemic/pandemic potential.

Efforts by the global community to address malaria have led to substantial progress in terms of lives saved over the past two decades. However, the gains are fragile. Malaria remains one of the world’s most harmful infectious diseases and exacts its toll predominantly in children and in populations living in low resource areas—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Novel drugs are needed to protect the gains made and advance toward disease elimination. Specific needs include new therapies to address the perpetual threat of drug resistance to current first-line antimalarial medicines, to improve the ease of drug regimens, and to address the dormant form of malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax.

Diarrheal disease is another leading cause of mortality and disability in childhood in global settings. Cryptosporidium has long been known to be a major diarrheal pathogen in immunocompromised individuals (e.g., people living with HIV/AIDs), and evidence from recent epidemiologic data also implicates cryptosporidiosis as a major parasitic diarrheal disease in young children under two years of age and in malnourished children in LMICs.

Kinetoplastid parasites cause three vector-borne tropical diseases: human African trypanosomiasis (also known as sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease. There have been substantial recent gains in therapeutic options for sleeping sickness, but the treatments that are available for leishmaniasis and Chagas disease are largely associated with serious adverse effects and imperfect efficacy. These conditions have long been neglected in terms of drug discovery and development.

Dengue is endemic in 100+ countries and causes nearly 100 million symptomatic infections each year. There is no specific treatment and therefore clinical management currently relies on supportive care, even for those that suffer the worst manifestations of disease characterized by hemorrhagic fever and shock syndromes.

The impact of COVID-19 has exposed the threat of viral diseases to the health of populations globally. Novel therapeutics are urgently needed to address viral pathogens that have been identified by the World Health Organization and others as potential risks for future global epidemics or pandemics.

Partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

Collaboration is fundamental to successful drug discovery science. The science at NITD takes place through enduring partnerships with academic institutions, philanthropic organizations, governments, and international health organizations. Thus, NITD’s model is organized around collaborative research with scientific partners proficient in diseases that are endemic in developing countries and funding partners that help to catalyze investment in R&D for neglected diseases.

NITD is also committed to partnering with scientists and clinicians to help build and strengthen capacity for high-impact science in global settings. Since 2003, NITD has provided training, internships, and mentoring opportunities for students and research professionals that live and work in low- and middle-income countries.

Results and milestones

The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, with the support of partners, has advanced two new antimalarial drug candidates with novel mechanisms of action to clinical trials.

Ganaplacide/lumefantrine-SDF (solid dispersion formulation), currently in phase III of clinical development, contains a novel antimalarial agent with a new mechanism of action (ganaplacide) and a new formulation of lumefantrine that is optimized for once-daily dosing. This innovative combination therapy has potential to clear malaria infection, including artemisinin-resistant strains, and also to block transmission of the malaria parasite.

Another novel antimalarial drug with a new mechanism of action, KAE609, is currently in clinical studies to address its role in treating both uncomplicated and severe malaria.

NITD and partners have also advanced drug candidates into early stage human trials to address cryptosporidiosis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue, and coronavirus.

Geographic Reach
  • Africa
  • Americas
  • South-East Asia
  • Western Pacific
See Where
Disease Area
  • Infectious and Parasitic Disease
See Disease Areas
Target Population
  • Marginalized/indigenous people
  • People with low incomes
Partner organizations
Academia or research institute

University of Georgia

University of York

University of Texas

Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Mahidol University

University of California, Berkeley

Private Foundation or Development Organization

Wellcome Trust

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Gates Philanthropy Partners

Global NGOs

Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)

Product Development Partnerships

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)