$14 Million Gates Foundation Award to Save Sight and Lives

February 5, 2013

Dr. Lietman treating a child in Ethiopia

We want to share with you some exciting news to underscore the leveraging ability of funds contributed to That Man May See to save and restore sight. The story starts in 2008, when That Man May See pooled resources from a number of generous donors to invest $30,000 in the work of Tom Lietman, MD, and his colleagues at UCSF’s Francis I. Proctor Foundation.

As part of an ongoing study in Ethiopia to eradicate trachoma, Dr. Lietman and his research team utilized these philanthropic gifts to treat with azithromycin virtually all children under 5 in over 200 villages. The team also received support from the Bernard Osher Foundation to gather more pilot study data on this effect of azithromycin. Philanthropic generosity and the data it helped to gather enabled the researchers to apply for funds to greatly expand the clinical study.

Dr. Lietman recently shared with That Man May See confirmation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that over $12 million will continue this program into 2018.

The Gates Foundation was heartened by the results of the study – lives were saved as well as sight. In the groups of children treated with biannual oral doses of azithromycin, the investigators found that infant mortality was cut in half. Instead of 12.2 mortalities per 1,000 person years, the level dropped to 5.7 per 1,000 person years – more than 50% reduction in infant mortality in those children who were being treated for trachoma with azithromycin by mouth.

Answers to why mortality is reduced and sight saved will be the subject of the expanded research program treating babies and children in Niger, Tanzania, and Malawi – African nations beset by high rates of childhood mortality.

The research team is comprised of four UCSF faculty members: Dr. Lietman; Jeremy Keenan, MD, MPH; Travis Porco, PhD, MPH; and Bruce Gaynor, MD. Staff members include Nicole Stoller, MPH, and Sun Yu, MPH. The project will be administered by UCSF’s Proctor Foundation and conducted in conjunction with the Carter Center (Niger), Johns Hopkins University (Tanzania) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Malawi).

That Man May See is continually grateful for private “seed funding” to help initiate projects such as this one. We are honored that the Gates Foundation has greatly expanded the effort. When you make a gift to That Man May See, you provide hope that all may see.

UCSF Staff in NigerDr. Bruce Gaynor, Dr. Jack Whitcher, Nicole Stoller, and Sun Yu, the UCSF faculty and staff with local study team researchers in Niger. The research studies would not be possible without the help of local staff.