The Latin American office of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative won a Carlos Slim Award in Health, which carries a $100,000 cash prize, for its work and achievements in developing new treatments for disregarded patients, the institution said.

"We're very happy to receive this prize, which acknowledges the efforts of DNDi in researching the neglected diseases of the Americas," Eric Stobbaerts, executive director of the organization in Latin America, told Efe by telephone from Rio de Janeiro.

He said that "neglected diseases" are those that are largely ignored by giant pharmaceutical labs because they mostly affect poor people in developing countries, which means there is little commercial incentive for developing medicines to treat them.

Illnesses such as sleeping sickness, malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and filariasis cause high mortality rates and threaten millions of people in countries where they are endemic.

While some neglected diseases are life-threatening, others cause and perpetuate poverty, with entire populations and countries caught in a vicious circle in which the people, including children, get sick and are unable to study or work, creating ever more disastrous financial and educational situations, DNDi said in a communique.

"We hope this award sets a precedent for boosting further commitments for health innovations in Latin America," the director of the Mexico City-based Carlos Slim Health Institute, Roberto Tapia, said.

"It is a call to encourage more actors to come together and increase discovery and development of new health innovations for poor, marginalized, and forgotten people whose health needs continue to be neglected," he added.

Founded six years ago by Mexican multi-billionaire Carlos Slim, the institute is a non-profit organization that focuses on key health issues affecting the most vulnerable populations of Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, created by Medecins sans Frontieres, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and France's Pasteur Institute, was honored in the Outstanding Institution category. EFE