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.

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, Institute of Atomphysics and spectroskopy. 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. 

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.

Proposal: Applying spectral imaging to leprosy diagnosis. 

Although an effective cure for leprosy is available, a major bottleneck for control programs is early and accurate diagnosis and classification. A field-friendly tool is needed to assess suspect leprosy lesions with rapid and accurate results. Building on similar work done for skin melanoma, this project will find spectral chromophore patterns of skin affected by leprosy in comparison with healthy skin of the same person. The spectral data will be correlated to clinical diagnosis, classification and biopsy data from the same lesions. The identified sensitive spectral bands associated with leprosy will further be used to design and assemble a specific cellphone add-on and spectral image processing software to establish the sensitivity and specificity of such a mobile instrument.  Applied to leprosy, this would allow for field staff to have a cost-effective hand-held device to be used to screen suspect lesions and receive either a definite diagnosis or a probability-score factor.

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 event is organized by NNN (Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network).

Watch the video of the prize presentations during the NNN Conference closing session.

Souce: Neglected Tropical Disease NGO Network.