News from TDR Director, John Reeder

Preparing for scale-up

TDR news item
14 August 2013

It’s usually quiet during the summer in Geneva, but TDR is buzzing with activity. This is an important time for us to prepare for the numerous research programmes and support schemes that will begin next year. Most of our work will be new, designed according to our strategy and focused on building research capacity and supporting research that improves the control and treatment of disease in neglected populations.

Impact of climate change

Some projects have already begun. For example, 5 research teams from across Africa recently met to prepare for the start of the new research on the impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases in Africa. Climate change is adding new pressures throughout the continent on populations already suffering from poverty, food insecurity, ecological and social vulnerabilities. The recently formed TDR unit for research into vectors, environment and society is taking a multi-pronged approach to explore how to improve disease control strategies and tools, and increase the capacity to generate, interpret, and use new knowledge to inform policies and practices. You can read more about the team members and their work in the link to the right.

Reducing system bottlenecks

In addition, a new tool kit to help researchers apply implementation research that reduces system bottlenecks was piloted at a recent workshop in Botswana. The participants were very excited about the possibilities, calling it an “eye opener”. The team from Zambia saw the value of building a stronger network with the ministry of health and engaging implementers early on. Uganda would like to replicate the course in local institutions. Those from Ghana talked about providing it to research centres around the country.

World health report on universal health coverage

"Most of our work will be new, designed according to our strategy and focused on building research capacity, and supporting research that improves the control and treatment of disease in neglected populations."

Dr John Reeder, TDR Director

This year’s World Health Report is on research for universal health coverage. Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, is launching this in Beijing. The report focuses on the need for more local research for tailored approaches to providing universal health coverage. It identifies the benefits of increased investment in health research by low- and middle-income countries through case studies from around the world, and proposes ways to further strengthen this type of research. With WHO colleagues and report authors Christopher Dye and Robert Terry, I helped co-write an editorial that will be published 21 August in Science Translational Medicine outlining the importance of research in achieving the WHO goal of “the highest attainable standard of health for all people”.

Staffing changes

I am pleased to announce that Robert Terry is transferring from WHO’s Public Health Innovation and Intellectual Property department to join the TDR team in the role of Manager, Knowledge Management, where he will be responsible for helping translate evidence into policy. He steps into the vacant spot left by Garry Aslanyan's recent move to the Manager, Partnerships and Governance (I’ll have more on Garry’s new role next month). Rob comes from earlier positions at the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society, where he had extensive experience formulating R&D strategy and policy. He joined WHO in 2007 and managed the development and implementation of Organization’s global strategy on research for health.


Dengue is a disease that is re-emerging and is a significant cause for concern in many of the member states. A TDR consortium is working to develop new guidelines to predict, detect and manage dengue outbreaks. A comprehensive review of research evidence showed significant gaps, so the group is writing a textbook that will include a model contingency plan to predict, detect and respond to the disease. This work is part of an ongoing effort at TDR. Working with the World Health Organization, a handbook for clinical management of dengue was produced in 2012, which is now available in French.

TB research priorities

I want to end by calling attention to the last of the research priority reports produced by the Disease and Thematic Reference Groups initiated by TDR in 2010. This Think Tank of experts have published the Global Report for Research on Infectious Diseases of Poverty, a new WHO Technical Report series of 4 reports on research priorities in neglected tropical disease research, and a final report on TB research priorities, just released this week. It is an expansive body of work that should provide ideas and evidence for anyone looking to see where to invest research in these areas. I thank the many scientist worldwide that gave their time to work with us on producing this valuable document.

For more information, please contact

Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +44 79 441 2289