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History & Mission

What are Emerging and Neglected Diseases?

The terms emerging and neglected diseases encompass a variety of debilitating, and often deadly, infections. Emerging diseases are newly recognized diseases. Their cause or origin is unknown or, increasingly, they may be newly emerging drug-resistant forms of familiar pathogens. Our lack of tools for prevention, treatment, and control of emerging diseases, combined with their potential spread through international travel and trade, poses a special threat to world health. Neglected diseases, on the other hand, have co-existed with humans for millennia. They include a range of familiar and rare infections such as malaria, tuberculosis, and leprosy that are largely endemic in the developing world. For some of these diseases, tools for prevention, treatment, and control exist, but fail to reach populations that are most in need. For others, there is a complete lack of tools to support disease control.

While distinct in many ways, emerging and neglected diseases share a common market failure. Because these diseases affect either too few people or primarily marginalized populations of the developing world, there is limited financial incentive to invest in new scientific research or product development. While the potential for profit on products that effectively prevent, diagnose, or treat emerging and neglected diseases is low, the potential impact on global health is great. There is an urgent need for increased scientific understanding and innovative product development for both emerging and neglected diseases to slow the spread of newly emerging diseases and alleviate the burden of neglected diseases among the world’s poor.

Mission

The mission of the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases (CEND) is to help the University of California, Berkeley make innovative and substantial contributions to the global response to emerging and neglected infectious diseases.

Theory of Change

Emerging and neglected diseases are caused by infection with complex and diverse organisms, often in challenging social and geopolitical environments. Understanding and controlling these diseases demands creativity and collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and borders. UC Berkeley has a solid foundation and long tradition of excellence in basic research, technological innovation, and public higher education. The campus has numerous unique and innovative techniques, technologies, and tools that could greatly accelerate progress if brought to bear on emerging and neglected disease research. At present, however, the campus directs only limited resources towards this goal. The reasons for this include 1) the difficulty of developing a broad consensus on the needs of the field, 2) a lack of incentives to develop complex collaborations across, and beyond, the university campus and, 3) the paucity of funding to explore high-risk projects in an unfamiliar field.

In order to overcome these challenges, we have established three objectives to guide our programs and activities at CEND:

Educate. Educate potential innovators about the scientific, technical, and global health challenges posed by emerging and neglected infectious diseases.

Connect. Connect researchers from diverse disciplines, geographic regions, and sectors to foster innovative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative research.

Invest. Invest in research to transform innovative ideas into active research programs.

We at CEND believe that through these objectives we can help the best and brightest minds at UC Berkeley access the resources they need to make meaningful and innovative contributions to our scientific understanding and ability to combat emerging and neglected diseases.

History

CEND was established as a multi-disciplinary research unit in 2008, with the support of a generous donation by Henry H. “Sam” Wheeler, Jr. More than 60 faculty from multiple schools, colleges, and divisions at UC Berkeley, spanning the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, public health, law, economics, and business, are affiliated with CEND. We have also established partnerships and collaborations with other academic institutions, global health nonprofits, government agencies, and biotech & pharmaceutical companies both locally and around the world.

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