Vatican City – November 10, 2016 –Peter Hotez, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) and director of the Sabin Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP), today will help kick off the first-ever Vatican conference on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and rare diseases with a keynote address.

The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers and organized in partnership with Sabin, presents an historic opportunity for global leaders to act in solidarity to reduce the unnecessary human suffering of the more than one billion people affected by NTDs, a group of 18 parasitic, bacterial and viral infections. These diseases can lead to blindness, physical disabilities, malnutrition and even death, and trap families and communities in a cycle of disease and poverty.

As one of the world’s largest healthcare providers, the Catholic Church is in a unique position to leverage its influence in service of the global effort to control and eliminate NTDs by expanding treatment coverage, advancing research and development, and ensuring the basic rights and dignity of patients. The successful elimination and control of NTDs and rare diseases would yield significant economic and public health benefits to communities around the world.

“I am deeply appreciative of the honor to present at the Vatican and to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers,” said Hotez. “This is a wonderful opportunity to highlight NTDs, or what I sometimes call ‘the most important diseases you’ve never heard of.’ These are diseases borne of poverty and conflict – two challenges at the heart of the social mission of the Catholic Church. The Church, with its unique position of influence and vast network of health care service, has the potential to advance the fight against NTDs in a number of key ways. Over the next three days, I look forward to discussing how we can best work together to accelerate the elimination and control of the world’s NTDs.”

Sabin’s vaccine development team, overseen by Dr. Peter Hotez, is currently developing safe, effective, low-cost vaccines for a number of NTDs, including human hookworm and schistosomiasis. These vaccines are urgently needed but have a limited commercial market since NTDs primarily impact the world’s poorest population.

During the conference, more than 500 leading NTD researchers, Catholic officials and policy makers from around the globe will gather to discuss pastoral, economic, social, and political measures to advance the fight against NTDs and rare diseases. Examples of topics of discussion will include the dignity and rights of patients, the role of the Church in faith communities affected by infectious disease and improving access to medicines for NTD treatment.  Pope Francis is expected to close the historic conference on Saturday with an address to participants.

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About The Sabin Vaccine Institute

The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) worldwide. Sabin develops new vaccines, advocates for increased use of existing vaccines and promotes expanded access to affordable medical treatments in collaboration with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals and non-profit organizations. For more information, please visit www.sabin.org.

Sabin’s research and development of new vaccines is conducted through the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership, based at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine. Sabin works with leading private, academic and public institutions around the world to develop and test safe, effective and low-cost vaccines that benefit the world’s poorest communities. A complete overview of ongoing projects and partners is available at www.sabin.org/pdp

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