On June 5-6, the seven partner organizations within the STOP2030 Consortium met in Nairobi for its Annual Meeting, hosted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). Over 20 participants from all the teams convened to discuss and decide on the next steps required to advance the fixed-dose combination (FDC) of albendazole and ivermectin towards its regulatory approval and implementation.

Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), Evidence Action Kenya, and other relevant Kenyan organizations and agencies also attended part of the STOP2030 Annual Meeting. They shared their questions, insights, and expectations with the team and encouraged the Consortium to bring the project to completion.

“We are particularly optimistic about the benefits this treatment will bring to school health programs and other public health initiatives,” shared Dr. Ahmed Mohammed, Director of Product Evaluation and Registration from Kenya’s PPB, in a speech read on his behalf by Mikal Ayiro.

STOP2030’s name references WHO’s 2030 Roadmap for soil-transmitted helminths (STH), which aims for the elimination of this disease as a public health problem by the end of the decade. Dr. Charles Mwandawiro, Chief Research Officer at KEMRI and part of the STOP2030 team, reminded attendees in his opening remarks that the deadline is no longer distant; meanwhile, he pointed out, the problem persists without a comprehensive solution.

Officials involved in mass drug administration (MDA) programs in Kenya reiterated a recurring theme: multiple campaigns have reduced the burden of STH, but the current pharmacological tool—monotherapy with albendazole—cannot achieve the goal of eliminating the disease as a public health issue. “We are approaching the below 2% mark, but this reduction is only in three species,” said Dr. Doris Njomo, Principal Research Scientist and Center Director at ESACIPAC. “Strongyloides stercoralis and Trichuris trichiura don’t respond effectively to albendazole.” She added that the FDC “can be a game-changer and a promising intervention towards the WHO goals.”

Elijah Songok, Director General at KEMRI, could not attend the meeting but sent his remarks and encouragement through Dr. Njomo. “The results are eagerly awaited, not just in Kenya but in many countries facing challenges in STH control and elimination, especially in school-age children,” he stated.

“The FDC is an answer to a call,” said Julie Jacobson from Bridges to Development, part of the STOP2030 team, during her introductory talk. “The current drugs don’t provide full coverage, but ours does.” She emphasized that the FDC maintains or simplifies distribution and addresses one of MDA’s greatest risks: the choking hazard. “It’s orodispersible and mango-flavored,” she explained. Jacobson addressed some common questions regarding the project: “A phase II/III clinical trial, the ALIVE study, has already evaluated safety and efficacy; the shelf life is around two years without requiring special storage conditions,” she said. She also clarified that Liconsa, the company delivering the drug and a partner in the Consortium, has a long history of producing medicines at scale globally.

Group photo of the participants in the STOP2030 Annual Meeting, hosted by KEMRI in Nairobi (Kenya) in June, 2024.The front row shows, from left to right: Collinks Okoyo (KEMRI), Abraham Oduro (GHS), Doris Njomo (ESACIPAC) and Alejandro Krolewiecki (Mundo Sano)

Participants in the STOP2030 Annual Meeting, hosted by KEMRI in Nairobi (Kenya) in June, 2024. Photo by KEMRI

Jacobson noted that the FDC would not be a donated drug but emphasized Liconsa’s commitment to making it “as affordable as possible” and providing “funding opportunities” for interested countries. Together with her colleague Alan Brooks, she explained that the Consortium aims to inform a WHO Policy Brief to update strategies for eliminating STH as a public health problem once the FDC becomes a proven alternative.

These remarks transitioned into the first working session on the agenda, led by Collins Okoyo (KEMRI), discussing data management, data collection, and mathematical modeling needed for upcoming studies planned by the STOP2030 project. The session also helped in establishing the data points required for a comprehensive evaluation of the FDC’s cost-effectiveness.

The Consortium was updated on the progress of two formative studies led by Dr. Cornelius Debpuur (Ghana Health Service, GHS) and Lydiah Kibe (KEMRI), designed to inform both the REALISE clinical trial and an ‘acceptability, feasibility, and adherence study’ under development. They identified key issues such as the size and taste of the tablet, how to inform communities through influential figures, and the need to dispel common rumors associated with new medicines.

José Muñoz and Almudena Legarda from ISGlobal shared a status update on the REALISE clinical trial, a cohort study primarily focused on evaluating the FDC’s safety in a large population of 20,000 school-aged children, with a secondary goal of examining effectiveness. While the protocol is already registered, details about sample collection, coverage, and the best tools for determining the prevalence of Strongyloides stercoralis, one of the target parasites, were actively discussed.

The teams also collaborated on the best strategies for the ‘acceptability, feasibility, and adherence study,’ planned under STOP2030’s Work Package 4, and identified potential implementation challenges specific to the project.

The Wellcome Sanger team, led by Dr. Stephen Doyle, explained the critical role of genomic analysis in predicting resistance to anti-parasitic drugs. He advocated for the most comprehensive sample collection protocol during the clinical trial to ensure flexibility in analysis and foster more opportunities for future scientific and evidence-based investigations.

Lastly, Borja Robert from Mundo Sano highlighted the importance of internal and external communications to enhance collaboration within the Consortium and increase the likelihood of project success. He also reviewed the primary tools available for these tasks.

Two open mic sessions were interspersed between the main discussions, allowing team members from all partner organizations to share interesting ideas or related research. The topics discussed varied widely: the impact of improving house flooring on reducing parasitic transmission, a mathematical model to evaluate the effect of WASH measures on the elimination of STH, novel diagnostic techniques, and evidence regarding the effectiveness of communication actions within a public health project—all presented in a 5-minute talk followed by a 5-minute discussion format.

The STOP2030 Annual Meeting concluded on June 6 with a strong consensus on the path forward. The event fostered greater team cohesion, underscored the importance of collaboration across Work Packages, and clarified the next steps needed to reach the finish line.