DNDi and partners employed a drug repurposing approach to find compounds that may be active against the microfilariae Onchocerca guttura and Onchocerca lienalis, with the aim of developing a drug candidate for filarial indications. Several potential candidates were identified through hit-to-lead and lead optimization programmes that screened compound libraries provided by pharmaceutical companies. DNDi provided biological resources, expertise, and the target product profile to select the best candidates. In 2019, one of these candidates, CC6166, was selected for further development by DNDi and Bristol-Myers Squibb (formerly Celgene), and in late 2020, DNDi absorbed the project in its entirety.

Project updates


CC6166, a potentially macrofilaricidal compound, was selected in December 2019 as a pre-clinical candidate for further development by DNDi and Bristol-Myers Squibb (formerly Celgene). Preparatory work, including polymorph screening and optimization of formulations for toxicology studies, began in 2020, but other planned activities were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced the dissolution of its Global Health research team, and all activities have now been transferred to DNDi.


DNDi  and Celgene (now part of Bristol-Myers Squibb) have signed an agreement covering pre-clinical and Phase I for a potentially macrofilaricidal compound known as CC6166. Celgene will cover all pre-clinical, Phase I, and CMC activities, while DNDi  will provide expertise and know-how.


Lead optimisation of a novel class of compounds with macrofilaricidal profiles is on-going with the aim to select a candidate for pre-clinical development in 2019. 


In 2017, candidates from four distinct chemical series were evaluated through the lead optimization effort conducted in collaboration with Celgene while others were evaluated through the Macrofilaricide Drug Accelerator (MAC DA) led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of efforts to develop a third microfilaricide candidate for development. 

One successful compound is a well-known antihelminthic (oxfendazole) that is currently being investigated for feasibility of use in humans. These efforts will continue throughout 2018. 


In conjunction with industrial partners, Abbvie and Celgene, further lead optimization was carried out. These efforts will continue throughout 2017, with the aim of delivering a pre-clinical candidate for filarial diseases.