Turning a Blind Eye: Neglected Tropical Diseases


Thousands of people in nearby countries are affected by neglected tropical diseases each year, yet we seemingly do very little to help. Presented by 2019 Victorian Australian of the Year Mark Sullivan, and former International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr Unni Karunakara – this session focuses on how we have been able to fight these diseases locally but have been slow to act with our neighbours. Join us as we discuss the logistics of addressing neglected tropical diseases, the forces which shape our response, and the progress made so far.


Mr Mark Sullivan

Mr Mark Sullivan is the founding member and managing director of Medicines Development for Global Health (MDGH), an independent biopharmaceutical company which aims to develop affordable medication and vaccines in support of global health equity. In developing the first new drug treatment for river blindness in 20 years, Mr Sullivan and his team pioneered the registration of moxidectin with the US FDA. For his work in this area, Mr Sullivan was awarded Victorian Australian of the Year for 2019.

Dr Unni Karunakara

Dr Unni Karunakara was International President of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from 2010-2013. He has been a humanitarian worker and a public health professional for more than two decades, with extensive experience in the delivery of health care to populations affected by conflict, disasters, epidemics and neglect, in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. He was Medical Director of the MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines (2005-2007). Karunakara serves on the Board of Directors of Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) India and MSF Holland. He has held various academic and research fellowships focusing on the demography of forced migration and the delivery of health care to neglected populations affected by conflict, disasters and epidemics. Karunakara served as the Deputy Director of Health of the Earth Institute, Millennium Villages Project (2008-2010), and was Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health (2008-2017) at Columbia University. Karunakara is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Public Health at Yale University and a Shinhan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Yonsei University in Korea.