Before the launch of the LRI, leprosy research has been funded by one or more of the members of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). No joint funding mechanism was available and collaborative funding only occurred on an ad hoc basis. Exceptionally, funds were found outside of the ILEP membership. This situation continues to date and has limited the scope of leprosy research and thus the speed with which progress is made in tackling remaining major research questions. It also means that only few research groups worldwide are willing to engage with leprosy research on a long-term basis.
The Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) has developed a robust mechanism for selecting and supporting leprosy research projects through an independent Scientific Research Committee, comprising experts in leprosy, clinical medicine, public health, rehabilitation and social sciences. In 2013 the American Leprosy Missions (ALM) and the German Leprosy, Tuberculosis Relief Association (GLRA) and effect:hope (TLM Canada) joined forces with NLR and a joint research policy was developed.
The coalition developed a vision to use its resources in a joint manner to support leprosy research as per its defined priorities, and to actively look for funding outside of the ILEP membership. This new venture, the Leprosy Research Initiative (LRI), was launched in September 2013. In 2015 The Leprosy Mission International (TLMI) has joined the LRI. The LRI is open to any organisation that aligns itself to its vision and mission and that is willing to commit funds to the joint LRI research fund and to contribute to the running costs of the LRI. All research supported by the LRI will be independently reviewed, selected and monitored by the Scientific Review Committee.