Drug Discovery Unit, University of Dundee, and DNDi Collaborate to Identify Drug Candidates to Treat Visceral Leishmaniasis
News Jun 30, 2009
On the eve of an international meeting bringing together 200 African researchers to discuss progress on research for neglected tropical diseases (NTD), the Drug Discovery Unit University of Dundee, and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) announced that they have initiated a collaboration on the discovery and development of affordable and effective therapies for visceral leishmaniasis (kala azar).
Transmitted by the sandfly, the parasite Leishmania causes three different forms of disease, of which visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is the most severe. Fatal if left untreated, VL puts 200 million people at risk in 70 countries.
Approximately 500,000 new cases and 51,000 deaths are reported to occur each year, although it is estimated that only 30% of cases are reported. A significant proportion of clinical cases occur in children.
The collaboration, (£1.8m over 5 years) which has been established for an initial period of three years and may be extended to five years, will focus on identifying molecules capable of killing the Leishmania parasite, which are suitable for further development into safe and effective medicines for clinical trials by DNDi’s partner organizations.
The DDU will look to use the current knowledge and potential medicines developed within its African sleeping sickness programme, to act as starting points for the discovery of medicines for leishmaniasis.
This funding will seed the development of a dedicated leishmaniasis drug discovery group at Dundee, which will seek to leverage the expertise of researchers from Dundee by forming consortia with leading academic centres such as the Structural Genomics Consortium and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
The collaboration has been formed to specifically address unmet patient needs as, although the number of treatments available for VL has grown over the past decade, all of these drugs have significant drawbacks – in terms either of route of administration, length of treatment (21 to 28 days), toxicity or cost – which limit their utilization in disease-endemic areas.
“This collaboration helps to expand the global efforts to aid the discovery of drugs to treat the neglected diseases, which continue to blight the health and wealth of many developing countries. This seed funding from DNDi will act as a catalyst to enable us to build from our current focus on African sleeping sickness, into other neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis.” said Paul Wyatt, Director of drug Discovery, Drug Discovery Unit.