The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) have signed a memorandum of understanding for research and treatment of dengue. The two institutions also sealed a strategic research alliance and submitted a joint project to the Finep Public Notice for Neglected Diseases.
At the meeting, DNDi’s global Director of Research and Development, Laurent Fraisse, the President and Chair of the Board of Directors of DNDi Latin America, Michel Lotrowska, and DNDi’s Regional Executive Director in Latin America, Sergio Sosa-Estani, were received by the President of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade Lima, who praised the historic cooperation between the two institutions.
‘Formalizing this alliance is important not only for the memorandum of understanding, but also because it consolidates a whole path of common projects and will allow us to develop a strategic plan for the future, focused on neglected diseases and neglected populations,’ Nísia said.
In his address to the meeting, Laurent Fraisse also celebrated the advances. ‘We have the desire to prioritize our best partners. With Fiocruz, this was the case before, it is today, and it will be for the future. We want to bring our energy to contribute alongside the skill and capacity of this institution and elevate the partnership to a strategic level.’ Fraisse also recalled the meetings he had with Fiocruz Vice Presidents Rodrigo Correa (Research and Biological Collections) and Marco Krieger (Production and Innovation in Health). ‘There were very productive conversations about diseases such as Chagas disease and leishmaniasis. And we have advanced in discussing our plans for research to tackle dengue, a new DNDi project,’ he said.
Partnership on dengue
Collaboration between Fiocruz and DNDi on dengue will form part of a wider global research and development partnership to find a treatment for the disease, led by DNDi with partner institutions in India, Thailand, and Malaysia. The organization is also planning to join with institutions from African countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana, to conduct epidemiological studies. Fiocruz plays a central role in this network because of the wide range of its activities.
The number of dengue incident cases worldwide increased by 85% from 1990 to 2019. This rate is expected to rise due to the increasing temperatures related to climate change, potentially reaching 60% of the world’s population by 2080. The search for a comprehensive approach to addressing dengue should also include diagnosis and vaccines.
The Vice President of Health Production and Innovation, Marco Krieger, praised this new front of action. ‘We were promoting this initiative even before the pandemic. It adds to projects we already had, such as for Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and malaria – which all impact people living in the Latin American region.’
A strategic alliance between DNDi and Fiocruz has also been formalized. The goal is to strengthen the existing relationship by establishing a Joint Strategic Committee to oversee all current and future collaborations, which take place across numerous areas of research and development, and across advocacy and treatment access programmes for multiple infectious diseases. By 2028, the two institutions hope to help strengthen capacities in the Latin American region and ensure that new safe, effective, and accessible drugs are developed and delivered to neglected patients. The next steps involve the creation of a working group to define the structure and governance of the Joint Strategic Committee and identify potential areas of collaboration in pharmaceutical research and development, implementation research, and pharmaceutical production for Chagas, leishmaniasis, hepatitis C, dengue, and paediatric HIV.
Vice President of Research and Biological Collections, Rodrigo Correa, said there is much to gain from the exchange of information and experiences. ‘DNDi is interested in using Fiocruz’s network of biobanks,’ he said. ‘We hope to continue to expand this partnership.’ Jorge Mendonça, Director of the Institute of Drug Technology (Farmanguinhos/Fiocruz), also revealed that there is the potential to bring a treatment for hepatitis C to Brazil through its partnership with DNDi. ‘The next step is to present the documentation to Anvisa [the National Health Surveillance Agency].’ He said that the alliance will also allow for the strategic optimization of diagnosis and treatment: ‘Reducing the time between diagnosis and treatment will be very important for the health system.’
The alliance will also collaborate on the advocacy front, as highlighted by Sergio Sosa Estani, Regional Executive Director of DNDi in Latin America. ‘To be able to develop action plans, we need an enabling environment for strong partnerships,’ he explained. ‘Optimizing this environment requires specific advocacy to bring us closer to key actors.’
Projects for neglected diseases
DNDi and Fiocruz submitted a joint project to Finep’s call for research promotion, development, and innovation for neglected, tropical, and vector-borne diseases, among other diseases. The project Accelerating the preclinical and clinical development of treatments for dengue by repurposing drugs aims to lay the pre-clinical and translational foundations required to begin the clinical evaluation of repurposed drugs intended for early use, which can prevent the onset and/or reduce the duration of symptoms and prevent progression to the severe form of the disease.
The joint project will seek to validate and select at least one clinical candidate (ideally a combination of an antiviral agent and an anti-inflammatory or antiplatelet agent) and prepare the regulatory steps required to initiate a Phase II clinical study in Brazil, aiming for successful clinical development and approval of a new treatment for dengue.
Written in collaboration with Ciro Oiticica, Agência Fiocruz