As different as the developed world is from the developing world, so, too, are the diseases that plague their people. In industrialized countries, AIDS, cancer, and heart disease are prevalent; while in Africa, Asia, and South America, more than 700 million people suffer from one of three widespread tropical diseases: schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and trachoma.

For the last 16 years, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, based in New York City, has done its part to help eradicate these deadly diseases by supporting researchers investigating them, through its Program for Tropical Disease Research. "These diseases aren't getting their share of attention," says Joseph A. Cook, director of the program. "The foundation initiated this program with the intent of drawing the interest of the scientific community to these horrendous diseases."

Edna McConnell Clark and her husband, Van Alan Clark, established the foundation in 1950 primarily to help the poor. The husband-and-wife philanthropists began...

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