River Blindness Elimination Project Among Top 100 Proposals for MacArthur $100 Million Grant

Collaboration between The END Fund, U.C. Berkeley, WHO-ESPEN, and the NTD Support Center recognized as a top contender in the 100&Change Competition

Decatur, GA, February 19, 2020 — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today unveiled "Removing the Greatest Obstacle to the Elimination of River Blindness" was one of the highest-scoring proposals, designated as the Top 100, in its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world's most critical social challenges.

The proposed project is a collaboration between four organizations to solve a problem preventing more than 100 million people from receiving preventive treatment for river blindness. The partnership includes:

  • The END Fund — Expert in program design and management, supporting the delivery of 230 million treatments (more than 58 million for onchocerciasis elimination) in 2019 alone
  • University of California, Berkeley — Leader in technological innovation, including the mobile, point-of-care LoaScope used in this project
  • WHO-ESPEN — The World Health Organization Expanded Special Porject for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases, catalyzing disease elimination in Africa
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center — A program of The Task Force for Global Health, which champions research and coalition-building with globally endorsed results

Two hundred million people in 10 Central African countries are at risk of river blindness, caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. The disease can be prevented with the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin, the development of which was recognized with the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The Mectizan® Donation Program provides ivermectin free of charge to ministries of health.

However, half of the individuals at risk of river blindess in Central Africa have gone without ivermectin treatment. The reason for this neglect is another parasitic worm, Loa loa, which at high infection levels can lead to serious adverse events — including coma and death — following treatment with ivermectin. At present, river blindness elimination efforts are at a standstill in areas with suspected overlap of river blindness and Loa loa.

The proposed solution, recognized today as one of the "Top 100" for the $100 million grant, consists of testing patients for Loa loa and refraining from providing ivermectin to the few individuals with high infection levels. Proven safe and effective through pilots in Cameroon, this “test-and-not-treat” strategy leverages a novel mobile diagnostic called the LoaScope to assess individuals’ level of Loa loa infection at the point of care.


The Top 100 represent the top 21 percent of competition submissions. The proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, a Peer-to-Peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges, and a technical review by specialists whose expertise was matched to the project.

Each proposal was evaluated using four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible, and durable. MacArthur’s Board of Directors will select up to 10 finalists from these high-scoring proposals this spring.

MacArthur seeks to generate increased recognition, exposure, and support for the high-impact ideas designated as the Top 100,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change and MacArthur Managing Director, 100&Change. “Based on our experience in the first round of 100&Change, we know the competition will produce multiple compelling and fundable ideas. We are committed to matching philanthropists with powerful solutions and problem solvers to accelerate social change.”

Since the inaugural competition, other funders and philanthropists have committed an additional $419 million to date to support bold solutions by 100&Change applicants. Building on the success of 100&Change, MacArthur created Lever for Change to unlock significant philanthropic capital by helping donors find and fund vetted, high-impact opportunities through the design and management of customized competitions. In addition to 100&Change, Lever for Change is managing the Chicago Prize, the Economic Opportunity Challenge, and the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award.


Bold Solutions Network Launches

The Bold Solutions Network launched today, featuring  Removing the Greatest Obstacle to the Elimination of River Blindness as one of the Top 100 from 100&Change. The searchable online online collection of submissions contains a project overview, 90-second video, and two-page factsheet for each proposal. Visitors can sort by subject, location, Sustainable Development Goal, or beneficiary population to view proposals based on area of interest.

The Bold Solutions Network will showcase the highest-rated proposals that emerge from the competitions Lever for Change manages. Proposals in the Bold Solutions Network undergo extensive evaluation and due diligence to ensure each solution promises real and measurable progress to accelerate social change.  

The Bold Solutions Network was designed to provide an innovative approach to identifying the most effective, enduring solutions aligned with donors’ philanthropic goals and to help top applicants gain visibility and funding from a wide array of funders. Organizations that are part of the network will have continued access to a variety of technical support and learning opportunities focused on strengthening their proposals and increasing the impact of their work. 


More About 100&Change

100&Change is a distinctive competition that is open to organizations and collaborations working in any field, anywhere in the world. Proposals must identify a problem and offer a solution that promises significant and durable change.

The second round of the competition had a promising start: 3,690 competition registrants submitted 755 proposals. Of those, 475 passed an initial administrative review. 100&Change was designed to be fair, open, and transparent. The identity of the judges and the methodology used to assess initial proposals are public. Applicants received comments and feedback from the peers, judges, and technical reviewers. Key issues in the competition are discussed in a blog on MacArthur's website.

In the inaugural round of 100&Change, Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee were awarded $100 million to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Syrian response region and to challenge the global system of humanitarian aid to focus more on building a foundation for future success for millions of young children. 





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