2020 NTD Innovation Prize Winners Announced

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American Leprosy Missions announced the winners of the 2020 NTD Innovation Prize on 10 September 2020, during the closing session of the virtual 11th NTD NGO Network Conference. This year's awards were offered in partnership with Novartis

The NTD Innovation Prize is designed to encourage and support creativity and ingenuity within the NTD space, funding new ideas that can result in cost-effective, scalable and transformative positive impact. 

The first-place award of $20,000 went to Dr. Hugues Nana Djeunga and M. Arnauld Efon Ekangouo at the Centre for Research on Filariasis and other Tropical Diseases (CRFilMT) in Yaounde, Cameroon. Their project will explore the potential of cell-free DNA as a biomarker to diagnose onchocerciasis. 

The second-place award of $15,000 went to Dr. Deanna Hagge, Dr. Suwash Baral, and Dr Arie de Kruijff from The Leprosy Mission and Dr. Janis Spigulis from the University of Latvia. Their project will create and test a spectral imaging diagnosis process, based on similar work for skin melanoma, as a way to identify leprosy lesions. 

Watch the video of the prize presentations during the NNN Conference closing session. Read the winning team members' biographies below, and access their pitch videos and written proposal summaries here

Both these projects seek to improve diagnostics by applying new approaches, tools or methods to a persistent challenge. We're excited to see how these teams move the NTD community forward, generating positive outcomes for people affected by these diseases across the world. 

The 2021 NTD Innovation Prize will open for applications in January 2021. Check ntdinnovation.org for more information.

FIRST PLACE, $20,000

M. Arnauld Efon Ekangouo and Dr. Hugues Nana Djeunga 
Centre for Research on Filariasis and other Tropical Diseases - Cameroon

Proposal: Cell-free DNA: A promising biomarker for onchocerciasis elimination mapping?

M. Arnauld Efon Ekangouo is a Ph.D. candidate in biochemistry at the University of Yaoundé I and a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Filariasis and other Tropical Diseases (CRFilMT) in Yaoundé, Cameroon. 

Dr. Hugues Nana Djeunga is a molecular parasitologist based at the CRFilMT in Yaounde, Cameroon, where he leads the Molecular Parasitology and Genetic Epidemiology (MPGE) Department.

The CRFilMT is a not-for-profit research institution specialised on health research, and partnering with local public health authorities including NGDOs dedicated to tropical diseases. The Centre's research activities include clinical trials, drug discovery/development, development of diagnostic tools, monitoring and evaluation of NTD control programmes, and surveillance and management of serious adverse events occurring during mass drug administration. In addition, the CRFilMT is one of five reference laboratories accredited to carry out onchocerciasis diagnostics for control programme evaluation and monitoring throughout Africa. 


Dr. Arie de Kruijff, Dr. Suwash Baral and Dr. Deanna Hagge - The Leprosy Mission  
Dr. Janis Spigulis - University of Latvia, Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy

Proposal: Applying spectral imaging to leprosy diagnosis.

Dr. Arie de Kruijff is a medical doctor and has been working as The Leprosy Mission country leader in Mozambique since 2004.

Dr. Suwash Baral is a dermatologist and dermatopathologist consulting since 2014 at Anandaban Hospital, The Leprosy Mission Nepal.

Dr. Deanna Hagge has worked with The Leprosy Mission (TLM) since 2007. Recognised as an international expert in leprosy research, she collaborates on a number of projects. Based in Kathmandu, Nepal, Dr. Hagge directs TLM's mycobacterium research laboratories and advises and supports TLM's research across the world.

Dr. Janis Spigulis heads the Biophotonics Laboratory at the Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy, University of Latvia. Since 1997, the laboratory has developed new technologies for optical assessment of in-vivo skin. Dr. Spigulis has authored more than 200 scientific publications and 25 patented applications.


  • Jessica Mussro - Communications Coordinator, American Leprosy Missions