The Mectizan Donation Congratulates Mr. John J. Moores Sr. – recipient of the 2014 Merck Mectizan Award
The Merck Mectizan Award is given to individuals who have demonstrated an extraordinary level of commitment to fighting river blindness and/or lymphatic filariasis. John Moores founded the River Blindness Foundation in 1990 after reading an article in the Houston Chronicle about the late Dr. William Baldwin’s efforts to raise money to distribute Mectizan, which had been donated by Merck & Co., Inc.* in 1987 to all who need it for as long as needed. At the time, strategies and mechanisms to get the drug out to the millions of people who needed it were being developed by the Mectizan Expert Committee, but progress was slow. The donation of a drug on such a massive scale was unprecedented.
When Mr. Moores learned of Dr. Baldwin’s mission to get the drug distributed in Latin America, he founded the River Blindness Foundation. He donated an estimated $25 million to not only fulfill Dr. Baldwin’s vision and establish the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas, but to also establish country programs in Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Sudan. The Foundation also set up partnerships with other NGOs and bi-lateral funding agencies working on river blindness control including CBM, Africare, Sightsavers, International Eye Foundation, Lion’s Club International Foundation, the International Development Bank, and USAID to name a few.
In 1995, Mr. Moores transferred the River Blindness Foundation operations to The Carter Center where its legacy continued to flourish. In 2014, The Carter Center celebrated its 200 millionth assisted treatment and continues to facilitate the delivery of over 20 million treatments annually. There has been significant progress in the Americas where the disease has been eliminated from two countries and the remaining four countries are close eliminating river blindness from the region.
John Moores had the vision to see the Mectizan Donation Program as a tool to relieve suffering and, as a businessman, he recognized that providing resources for this cause would deliver an enormous return on the investment. Today, nearly 25 years after the River Blindness Foundation was established, millions no longer suffer from river blindness and the possibility of eliminating the disease globally is becoming a reality.
*Merck & Co., Inc. is known as MSD outside Canada and the United States.