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Dr. Bjӧrn Thylefors was a major contributor to the VISION 2020 global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness, which was built on strategies first developed in the field of onchocerciasis control and on the partnerships that developed to relieve the suffering caused by river blindness. Dr Thylefors first began contributing in the 1970s to the newly formed Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) by conducting groundbreaking research on the ocular morbidity associated with ocular onchocerciasis infection. In 1994 he played a key role in the formation of the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC).
When Merck started donating Mectizan in 1987, Dr. Thylefors began forming partnerships with WHO, Ministries of Health and NGOs that are still effective more than 20 years later. His work as liaison between WHO and the NGDOs led to the formation of the NGDO Coordination Group for Ivermectin Distribution in 1991, a critical component of the global onchocerciasis partnership structure. During his tenure as director of the Mectizan Donation Program from 2001 – 2007, treatments with MECTIZAN for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis rose from 45 million to 80 million annually. Additionally, he led new research efforts to understand and address the challenges of Mectizan distribution in areas co-endemic for loiasis and onchocerciasis.