The not-for-profit research and development organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) will collaborate with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and the University of Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), in a bid to discover new pre-clinical drug candidates targeting two parasitic neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), leishmaniasis and Chagas disease.
“This agreement will be a boost to our long-term strategy to develop entirely new chemical entities to treat neglected diseases and provide better treatment options for patients. Today, treatments for both leishmaniasis and Chagas disease come with significant drawbacks: treatment can be too long, too complex, come with significant side effects, be too expensive or be difficult to access. All of these factors limit uptake in endemic countries, and we need better options,” said Dr Charles Mowbray, Director of Drug Discovery, DNDi.
Over 1 billion around the world are at risk of leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by the bite of a sandfly. Visceral leishmaniasis, the deadly form, causes close to 30,000 deaths per year. Cutaneous leishmaniasis, with up to 1 million new cases every year, can lead to disfiguration and stigmatization for people affected. Chagas disease affects around 6-8 million people in 21 endemic countries across the Americas. The disease is one of the leading causes of heart failure in Latin America as it is responsible for life-threatening heart damage if not treated early.
“GSK has a strong history in discovery and development of medicines and vaccines for neglected diseases. This collaboration builds on our commitment to share our drug discovery expertise and resources to address the continuing burden of infectious diseases primarily affecting patients in the poorest parts of the world. We have already delivered exciting new candidate medicines in our partnership with the Wellcome Trust and the University of Dundee, and this new agreement allows us to extend this productive relationship to identify further promising approaches,” said Pauline Williams, SVP and Head, Global Health R&D at GSK.
The focus of the collaboration by the teams of scientists at GSK, DDU, and DNDi will be on designing, making, and testing new drug molecules, with a view to developing new pre-clinical candidates suitable for possible further development into safe, effective, and affordable treatments. As a part of the collaboration, the three organizations will pool their knowledge, chemical starting points, and resources to more quickly identify the most promising new drug candidates.
Wellcome was instrumental in co-funding the successful GSK-DDU collaboration that has delivered two novel pre-clinical candidates for visceral leishmaniasis and will continue to fund the GSK-DDU collaboration within the context of this work.
“The DDU and WCAIR are delighted to continue to put their expertise and capacities, developed within the excellent collaboration with GSK that delivered two pre-clinical candidates for leishmaniasis, to the service of those suffering from these neglected diseases, and we look forward to building on the strengths of our previous collaborations with GSK and DNDi,” said Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the DDU and Director of the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR) at the University of Dundee.
Both Chagas disease and leishmaniasis are targeted for elimination as public health problems according to the 2020 Roadmap targets for the control, prevention, elimination, and eradication of neglected tropical diseases established by the World Health Organization. New, patient-friendly, safe, and effective therapeutic breakthroughs would provide considerable support to achieving this target.
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The Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR, www.lifesci.dundee.ac.uk/research/wcair) consolidates the existing world-leading drug discovery expertise at the University of Dundee. WCAIR integrates the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU, www.drugdiscovery.dundee.ac.uk/), the Mode of Action group, and the Parasitology research groups within the School of Life Sciences providing a continuum from discovery sciences to pre-clinical candidate selection. Strong links already exist with global collaborators including Pharma, Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), and other Universities. These provide an efficient pipeline to move pre-clinical candidates into clinical development. Capacity Building and Public Engagement are also embedded into WCAIR. The Centre will disseminate its expertise through a variety of training options with an especial focus on researchers from the low and middle-income countries seeking treatments for endemic infectious diseases. In Public engagement our mission is to celebrate the role of science in fighting poverty and disease. Over the next decade WCAIR will generate a legacy of new therapeutics, new drug discovery approaches, a stronger drug discovery workforce and an informed public that will change and enrich the wider anti-infectives scientific and medical communities and patients.
Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate. wellcome.ac.uk/
A not-for-profit research and development organization, DNDi works to deliver new treatments for neglected diseases, in particular leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, Chagas disease, specific filarial infections, mycetoma, paediatric HIV, and hepatitis C. Since its inception in 2003, DNDi has delivered seven treatments: two fixed-dose antimalarials (ASAQ and ASMQ), nifurtimox-eflornithine combination therapy (NECT) for late-stage sleeping sickness, sodium stibogluconate and paromomycin (SSG&PM) combination therapy for visceral leishmaniasis in Africa, a set of combination therapies for visceral leishmaniasis in Asia, and a paediatric dosage form of benznidazole for Chagas disease. DNDi has established regional disease-specific platforms, which bring together partners in disease-endemic countries to strengthen existing clinical research capacity, as well as to build new capacity where necessary. www.dndi.org
Photo credit: Paul Kamau-DNDi