ATLANTA, Ga. — The late Dr. Vasanthapuram Kumaraswami, a pioneer in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, was awarded the second annual Kyelem Prize at the annual meeting Nov. 12 of the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The award, received by the Indian American scientist’s children Sameer and Manjusha Vasanthapuram, recognized a lifelong commitment to bringing innovative solutions to the fight against debilitating neglected tropical diseases.
Kumaraswami worked for 40 years to eliminate lymphatic filariasis, which can cause a disfiguring condition called elephantiasis. He was the director-in-charge of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis (formerly the Tuberculosis Research Center) and the National Institute of Epidemiology, both institutes of the Indian Council for Medical Research.
In these roles, Kumaraswami pioneered research on the impact of a medicine called ivermectin on lymphatic filariasis. He also contributed to the founding of the Global Program to Eliminate Filariasis, and propelled stakeholders to expand mass drug administration programs in India and the South-East Asia region to control the disease.
After he retired, he joined the Atlanta, Georga-based Task Force for Global Health for two years as associate director of international programs.
The 2016 Kyelem Prize was announced at the close of the COR-NTD meeting in Atlanta. Nearly 400 researchers, program implementers, donors, and representatives of the World Health Organization convened for the meeting to identify key questions facing programs aimed at eliminating neglected tropical diseases such as lymphatic filariasis.