The pharmaceutical company Merck has become the sixth company to join the ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases Drug Discovery Booster’ consortium, a new initiative to accelerate and cut the cost of early-stage drug discovery for two of the world’s most neglected diseases, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.
The Drug Discovery Booster was launched in 2015 by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to circumvent early-stage commercial barriers between pharmaceutical participants, allowing DNDi to search millions of unique compounds simultaneously in the hunt for new treatment leads.
“Early-stage drug discovery is expensive and time-consuming. The Booster overcomes these difficulties by allowing DNDi to conduct multilateral, simultaneous search processes across the millions of compounds owned by the participating companies,” said Dr Bernard Pécoul, DNDi Executive Director. “Adding Merck’s compound collection to the Booster project increases the chance of discovering desperately needed new treatments for leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.”
“It is critical that all together we take an end-to-end approach to addressing neglected tropical diseases that are affecting more than a billion people worldwide,” said Belén Garijo, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Healthcare. “We need better, newer tools and solutions for many of these diseases. Through our partnership with DNDi, we want to help to speed up the materialization of a pipeline of drugs to fight them.”
Merck becomes the sixth pharmaceutical company to open its compound libraries for the initiative, joining three Japanese companies – Eisai Co Ltd, Shionogi & Co Ltd, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, one from the UK – AstraZeneca plc., and one from the US – Celgene Global Health.
In its two years of operation, the Booster has already launched 13 focused screening projects against the parasites which cause leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, most of which have resulted in improved anti-parasitic compounds. Each project has already saved tens of thousands of dollars in compound synthesis costs, and has sped up the drug discovery process by an estimated two or three times. The project is on track to deliver new series into DNDi’s lead optimization portfolio in 2017. Initial results from the project will be published soon.
James Arkinstall, DNDi +41 79 392 9823
A not-for-profit R&D organization, DNDi works to deliver new treatments for neglected patients living with leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, specific filarial infections, paediatric HIV, mycetoma, and hepatitis C. DNDi is actively engaged in developing new treatments and screening new compounds, notably for Chagas disease and leishmaniasis. www.dndi.org
Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2016, Merck generated sales of € 15.0 billion in 66 countries. Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany, holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.