To identify new hit series that could be progressed and become new drug candidates for visceral leishmaniasis, DNDi tests chemical compounds for in vitro activity against L. donovani. Collections of natural and synthetic compounds are typically accessed through partners and commercial suppliers, and high-throughput screening is conducted in collaboration with University of Dundee and Institut Pasteur Korea. 

Project updates


DNDi maintained decreased leishmaniasis screening activities, with the exception of its fully funded collaboration with University of Tokyo to establish high-throughput screening (HTS) capacity for leishmaniasis in Japan and to complete the screening of the Drug Discovery Initiative (DDI) collection of 220,000 compounds. The HTS Leishmania extracellular amastigote assay was developed at University of Tokyo and the single-dose screening of the entire DDI collection was completed in 2022.


With a robust portfolio of new chemical entities for leishmaniasis advancing to clinical trials, DNDi decided to progressively decrease leishmaniasis screening efforts in early 2021 to enable a greater emphasis on Chagas disease screening. However, screening of a limited number of natural product collections has been completed or is ongoing. A new, fully funded collaboration with University of Tokyo to establish screening capacity for leishmaniasis in Japan has also been initiated. The discovery team will continue to evaluate the potential benefit of new screening or discovery opportunities related to leishmaniasis. 


Several new collections originating from pharmaceutical and research partners were identified, contractually and physically accessed, and screened. Discussions continued with various pharmaceutical companies, not-for-profit organisations, and other entities to obtain access to new collections to keep building our screening pipeline. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the activities of almost all our screening partners from mid-March 2020 through the end of the year. 


DNDi has identified a variety of novel hit series via the screening of new compound libraries to continuously feed the early discovery pipeline for leishmaniasis. Those new starting points originate from both natural product and synthetic compound collections, either accessed through partnerships, acquired via purchase, or obtained as in-kind contributions to DNDi. 


Several new starting points are currently being followed up in hit profiling, annotation, and hit-to-lead programmes. The screening effort will continue, with the aim of delivering further drug candidates to mitigate the risks of attrition and increase the chance of developing a new drug.


More than 20 novel series were identified in 2017 and are now being progressed.