Helminth Elimination Platform (HELP)
Objective: Advance existing candidates along the development pipeline to bolster the empty anthelminthic drug pipeline
Project start: 2019
The Helminth Elimination Platform (HELP) is a consortium of research institutes, universities, not-for-profit organizations, and pharmaceutical companies, formed in 2019 to develop new drugs for infections caused by parasitic worms (helminths).
The consortium is focusing on soil-transmitted helminthiases and river blindness (onchocerciasis), since these infections are among the most commonly found neglected tropical diseases.
Current treatments all present limitations. The current approach to eliminating helminth diseases is based on preventive chemotherapy (mass drug administration). While successful in reducing the prevalence of the disease, these programmes need to be repeated annually or bi-annually for up to 17 years because the drug only kills juvenile worms – not the adult worms, which can live for more than ten years in the human body.
More effective, safe, and affordable treatments are needed for helminth diseases – as highlighted in WHO new NTD Roadmap 2021-2030 – to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals on health.
The consortium‘s objective is to establish an R&D pipeline of drug candidates for treating onchocerciasis, especially in case current candidates fail in upcoming clinical trials. Moreover, it aims to establish a much-needed drug R&D pipeline to treat soil-transmitted helminth infections. For this disease, there is currently neither a drug with good efficacy against all species, nor any prospect thereof on the horizon.
In 2019, DNDi announced the launch of a large public-private partnership called the Helminth Elimination Platform (HELP). Led by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the new multidisciplinary consortium is working to identify new treatments against ‘nematode’ worms, including onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, hookworm, and whipworm.
The oxfendazole compound is currently under development for the treatment of neurocysticercosis and trichuriasis. Based on very encouraging pre-clinical efficacy data, DNDi is exploring the possibility of repurposing oxfendazole as a macrofilaricidal treatment for filarial indications.
DNDi is moving ahead with a Phase I trial and pharmaceutical development. With funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, HELP will conduct a Phase I trial and continue late pre-clinical activities for oxfendazole.
News & resources
- 6 July 2020 - Oxfendazole mediates macrofilaricidal efficacy against the filarial nematode Litomosoides sigmodontis in vivo and inhibits Onchocerca spec. motility in vitro, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
- 27 November 2019 - Public-private partnership launched to develop new drugs for roundworm infections
What innovation do patients with river blindness really need?
Current prevention efforts are based on mass administration of a drug known as ivermectin. While highly effective in reducing transmission of the disease, the drug must be administered every year for 10 to 12 years or more because it only kills juvenile worms, and not the adults.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 815628
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