February 19, 2024

[Event Report] “World NTD Day” webinar & “First Neglected Tropical Diseases Student Contest” award ceremony.

The World NTD Day Japan Preparatory Committee held a special webinar event on January 30th, 2024, for “World NTD Day” to raise understanding and interest in Neglected Tropical Diseases. An award ceremony was also held that day for the “First Neglected Tropical Diseases Student Contest”, which was organized by the NTDs Youth Organization. Award winners, selected from among 79 participants and 35 teams, were announced.


“Neglected Tropical Diseases” (NTDs) are a group of more than 20 infectious diseases that affect more than 1.6 billion people, particularly communities in low- and middle- income countries. Despite the huge needs in terms of health technologies for diagnostics, vaccines, and drugs, NTDs are under-researched, under-treated and under-funded. The purpose of the student contest and webinar was to raise awareness of the overlooked and neglected state of NTDs.


Participants in the January 30th webinar included Osamu Kunii, CEO & Executive Director of the GHIT Fund, Hiroaki Ueno, President of Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and Tetsuya Itani, Director, Office of Global Health Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. They spoke about their organizations’ perspectives on the current state of NTDs, as well as past efforts and future prospects for addressing these challenges.


The first part of the event was the awards ceremony for the first-ever Neglected Tropical Diseases student contest to be held in Japan. The contest was open to students from junior high to graduate school. The goal was to raise students’ understanding and interest in NTDs. Sixty percent of the entrants surveyed reported they “learned about NTDs for the first time through this contest”, with one winner stating, “the more I’ve learned about NTDs, the more strongly I feel this is an issue that needs to be resolved”. There were 35 entries from each age group chosen in the preliminary round. The final round was on January 28th, when the recipients of the Grand Prize, the U-18 Special Award, the GHIT Award, and the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Award were chosen.


(The final round of presentations)


The GHIT Fund promotes research and development through global partnerships. The GHIT Award went to four first-year nursing students from Makuhari Sogo High School in Chiba Prefecture. Their winning submission highlighted the importance of global efforts such as the “London Declaration” and the “Kigali Declaration” in combating NTDs and was praised for emphasizing the need for collaboration among government, industry, academia, and other partners. Dr. Kunii also praised the use of sign language in the final presentation.


The grand prize in the A category went to Kodai Maki, a 5th year medical student at the Oita University Faculty of Medicine, who created an easy-to-understand and interesting video focusing on lymphatic filariasis, one of the 20+ NTDs. The grand prize in the B category went to Kensuke Wakui, a 4th year medical student at the Osaka City University School of Medicine, who presented research on Chagas disease.


The second part of the event featured a “Teach us, Dr. Kunii” section moderated by Osamu Kunii, CEO of the GHIT Fund. It included presentations by Kota Yoshioka (Associate Professor, School of Tropical Medicine and Global Health, Nagasaki University), Yuka Makino (Technical Officer, WHO Regional Office for Africa), Takayuki Hida (Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association’s NTD Group Leader / Senior Director for Sustainability, Eisai Co., Ltd.), Kaori Nakatani (Director of Office, DNDi Japan), and others. They explained about the current issues regarding NTDs from their perspectives as researchers and businesspeople, answering questions about the nature of NTDs, whether NTDs exist in Japan, the newly listed NTD “Noma disease”, and efforts by pharmaceutical companies.


In closing, CEO Kunii underscored the need for a variety of partners in addressing NTDs, because these are complex issues directly related to poverty and socio-economic factors such as water and sanitation. He emphasized the importance of not being indifferent to significant global issues and the suffering of so many people, quoting Mother Teresa, “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” He said this student contest demonstrated the remarkable engagement of the younger generation in considering NTDs as a personal issue and taking action. He expressed his hope for even greater learning and engagement in the future.



Please click here to watch the webinar of the day. (in Japanese only)




- Information about the first Neglected Tropical Diseases student contest (NTDs Youth Organization)



- GHIT Fund support for Japan’s first Neglected Tropical Diseases student contest