The Mectizan Donation Program would like to congratulate Dr. Bjӧrn Thylefors – recipient of the 2011 Merck Mectizan Award. Dr. Thylefors received his award from Ms. Brenda Colatrella, Merck & Co., Inc.’s* Executive Director, Corporate Responsibility during the celebration of 25 Years of Mectizan held in Geneva in May 2012.
Dr Thylefors was recognized for:
- Advocating for the prevention of blindness in the developing world. Dr. Thylefors was a major contributor to the Vision 2020 plan for the elimination of avoidable blindness, which was built on strategies first developed in the field of onchocerciasis control and on the partnerships that developed to relieve the suffering caused by river blindness.Dr. Thylefors was nominated based on his remarkable contributions to the control and elimination of onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis through Mectizan distribution during a long and very distinguished career in tropical ophthalmology.
- Contributing in the 1970s to the newly formed Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) by conducting groundbreaking research on the ocular morbidity associated with ocular onchocerciasis infection. In 1994 he played a key role in the formation of the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC).
- Working to build strong partnerships. When Mectizan was donated in 1987, Dr. Thylefors began forming partnerships with WHO, Ministries of Health and nongovernmental development organizations (NGDOs) that are still effective more than 20 years later. His work as liaison between WHO and the NGDOs led to the formation of the NGDO Coordination Group for Ivermectin Distribution in 1991, a critical component of the global onchocerciasis partnership structure.
- Leading the Mectizan Donation Program to scale up treatments and to facilitate important operational research. During his tenure as director of the Mectizan Donation Program from 2001 – 2007, treatments with MECTIZAN for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis rose from 45 million to 80 million annually. Additionally, he led new research efforts to understand and address the challenges of Mectizan distribution in areas co-endemic for loiasis and onchocerciasis. He was also instrumental in forming critical partnerships needed for the scale up to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, including the LF NGDO network and in building partnerships that form part of the foundation of Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) control programs.
During his acceptance speech, Dr. Thylefors noted “The magnitude of the distribution of Mectizan in endemic areas, with presently more than 100 million doses approved each year, represents an achievement simply unimaginable 25 years ago.” This statement was an appropriate emphasis on the achievements made by partners over the first 25 years of the donation of Mectizan.
*Merck & Co., Inc. is known as MSD outside Canada and the United States.