TDR 40 year anniversary collection published

TDR news item
4 January 2015

PLOS NTD has published a 7-part collection on TDR’s 40 year history. It highlights profound changes in tropical disease research, showing how history has lessons for today and the future. Each article has been authored by groups of current and former TDR staff, showing the evolution of the Programme and raising issues that need to be addressed for the future.


In April of 1974, the 27th session of the World Health Assembly called for the “intensification of activities in tropical disease research” and the “strengthening of research and training activities”, particularly in developing countries. By November of that year, TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, was in operation. The main principles were to promote and conduct research equitably, and to provide access to this knowledge and the resulting tools to the most vulnerable and hard to reach people.

In this special collection, TDR staff provide their views on key challenges and lessons learned during the 40 year history, and explain how and why the approaches and workplans changed through time. This includes the type of research supported, the way it was conducted and even the diseases covered. As the needs in the countries evolved, so too has the Programme.

List of articles

  • What have we learned from 40 years of supporting research and capacity building?
    John C Reeder, Jamie A Guth
    This sets the stage for the series of articles and includes how TDR was set up, and provides a summary of key achievements and what has been learned.
  • Shaping the research agenda
    Edith Certain, Robert F Terry, Fabio Zicker
    The influence of scientists from disease endemic areas in both national and global health research priority setting is still relatively minor. This article provides some examples of how TDR’s approach of a wider engagement of stakeholders with onchocerciasis and visceral leishmaniasis has helped shape the research agenda and how that approach will be needed for the future.
  • A changing model for developing health products for poverty-related infectious diseases
    Piero L Olliaro, Annette C Kuesel, John C Reeder
    TDR started by helping develop new therapies desperately needed for diseases like leprosy and onchocerciasis and today is focused on optimising interventions and their implementation. The rationale for these changes is explained, and new R&D models are suggested that could simplify and shorten development.
  • From bright ideas to tools: the case of malaria
    Melba F. Gomes, Annette C. Kuesel
    TDR has experimented over the years with alternative approaches to research and development in low-income countries. The most important of these was the move from the traditional approach of receiving and funding innovative ideas, to taking some of the ideas and bringing them into fruition. This paper looks at the impact on malaria, using TDR data from 1975 to 2008 to review changes in strategy and funding that separated the first 20 years from the next two decades.
  • Vector research addressing countries’ control needs
    Yeya Tiemoko Touré, Bernadette Ramirez, Johannes Sommerfeld
    This paper documents the evolution of support for vector research, from an early focus on work driven by investigators addressing basic questions on the molecular biology, genomics, and genetic modification of vectors, to the shift in 2007 to focus on countries' control needs, continuing today with multi-country implementation research.
  • Applied research for better disease prevention and control
    Johannes Sommerfeld, Andrew Ramsay, Franco Pagnoni, Robert F Terry, Jamie A Guth, John C Reeder
    TDR has had a dedicated commitment to applied health research to improve infectious disease prevention and control since its inception. This paper summarizes its track record which ranged from social and economic research to operational and implementation research. It summarizes major evidence generated and also shows how this has influenced TDR’s current research agenda.
  • Strengthening research capacity - TDR's evolving experience in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
    Olumide A.T. Ogundahunsi, Mahnaz Vahedi, Edward M Kamau, Garry Aslanyan, Robert F. Terry, Fabio Zicker, Pascal Launois
    For most of the past 40 years, up to a third of TDR's total resources have been earmarked for strengthening research capacity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper summarizes some of the key supports, changes that were made, and evolving approaches.

For more information, contact Jamie Guth (