Award recognizes importance of investing in scientific research around the world
The University of Dundee awarded Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), with an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree (LLD).
This week, the University of Dundee awards a Doctor of Laws Degree (LLD) to eleven leading figures from fields including medicine, research, life sciences, law, art, and extreme adventure. University of Dundee Principal, Professor Pete Downes, considers the recipients, among whom Dr Bernard Pécoul, to be ‘among the highest achievers, clearest thinkers, and most respected voices in their fields’.
|Dr Pécoul has led the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) since its founding in 2003. Under his guidance, DNDi – a not-for-profit research and development organization – and its partners have made available six treatments for neglected diseases including the three kinetoplastid diseases (leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease) and malaria, and has built the largest-ever research and development drug pipeline for the three kinetoplastid diseases. In addition, DNDi recently entered the field of paediatric HIV and specific helminth infections to answer unmet patient needs. All these diseases affect several millions of people across developing countries. Prior to DNDi, Dr Pécoul was Director of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines from 1998 to 2003, a position he took on after that of Executive Director of MSF-France.
‘I am honoured to receive this prestigious award from the University of Dundee, which recognizes the progress made in researching new and better medicines for the most neglected diseases. Receiving this award here today in the UK is important for two reasons: both DFID and the Wellcome Trust have given great support to DNDi, and we collaborate with researchers from the University of Dundee on important drug discovery projects’, said Dr Pécoul.
About the DNDi-University of Dundee collaboration
The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) joined forces in 2009 to research new lead compounds active against visceral leishmaniasis (VL). More commonly known as kala azar or black fever, VL is characterised by prolonged fever, enlarged spleen and liver, substantial weight loss, and progressive anaemia, and is fatal if left untreated.
The DDU-DNDi collaboration has led to the development of two screening assays which can be used to evaluate a large number of compounds at the same time (high throughput assays) to identify novel chemical entities active against Leishmania donovani, the parasite which causes kala azar.
The most promising hits have been pursued through a hit-to-lead programme at DDU. This work has resulted in the discovery of a new chemical scaffold currently under lead optimization by DDU and GlaxoSmithKline (Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus). The DDU-DNDi collaboration has also taken advantage of the unique existing capabilities of DDU in lead generation. In addition, the collaboration has benefited from the expertise and progress generated as part of DDU’s human African trypanosomiasis (HAT, or sleeping sickness) discovery programme.
‘From collecting tissue samples in the villages of Sudan to screening parasites in the labs of Dundee, research can be risky and frustrating, but when it all comes together for the benefit of mankind, it makes all those long and challenging months of research worthwhile’, Pécoul said.
The Department for International Development (DFID) is a key funder of the DDU-DNDi collaboration, and is DNDi’s overall largest government donor, committed since 2006 to supporting R&D programmes to fight against neglected diseases. The Wellcome Trust provides funding to specific programmes at DNDi, notably for Chagas disease.