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LSTM-Eisai-UoL awarded GHIT Fund to deliver anti-Wolbachia drug discovery

LSTM-Eisai-University of Liverpool awarded GHIT Fund to deliver anti-Wolbachia drug discovery and development of novel drug candidates for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis & onchocerciasis

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) together with colleagues at the Department of Chemistry (University of Liverpool (UoL)) and Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai are pleased to announce that they have been award a Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund to develop new drugs to target lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. The GHIT Fund facilitates and funds global partnerships for the discovery and development of new health technologies, including drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, for infectious and neglected tropical diseases prevalent in developing countries.

Researchers will aim to identify and develop new drug candidates that efficiently kill the intracellular bacteria Wolbachia living inside the parasitic worms responsible for both lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and onchocerciasis (river blindness) - debilitating infections affecting more than 150 million people globally.

LSTM, through the A•WOL Consortium has already shown that a 4-6 week course of the antibiotic doxycycline can deplete Wolbachia from the parasitic worms, leading to worm sterility and slow worm death, thereby breaking the parasitic life-cycle and limiting adverse host immune response. This unique anti-Wolbachia treatment has already been adopted by international health programmes as it has many benefits, including potential for deployment in regions co-endemic with Loa loa and the ability to reduced treatment timeframes compared to standard anti-filarial drugs. However, the use of doxycycline remains limited due to it unsuitability for use in pregnant women and children. To combat these issues, the A•WOL Consortium is developing new drugs and discovering new drug candidates that can be used in all populations and with reduced treatment times as short as 7 days. This success was achieved by screening over 60,000 compounds to test their ability to kill Wolbachia. With the GHIT award, the most promising drug candidates will proceed through advanced rounds of chemical modification and testing to identify lead candidate compounds that have a good safety and efficacy profiles ready to move into pre-clinical testing.

With tropical disease expertise led by Prof Steve Ward and Prof Mark Taylor based at LSTM, chemical optimisation of analogues will be performed at Eisai in collaboration with Prof Paul O'Neill's laboratory at the Department of Chemistry, UoL. This unique partnership brings together internationally recognised drug discovery expertise focusing on a novel approach to address the current challenges of two parasitic diseases that affect the lives of many millions of people globally.


About the Partners


Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has been engaged in the fight against infectious, debilitating and disabling diseases since 1898 and continues that tradition today with a research portfolio in excess of well over £200 million and a teaching programme attracting students from over 65 countries.

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Eisai is a research-based pharmaceutical company determined to be proactive in improving access to medicines worldwide through partnerships strategies that involve working with governments, international organizations, private entities and non-profit organizations (NPOs).. Eisai is a signatory of the London Declaration, a coordinated effort to eliminate ten neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020 through the largest global public-private partnership to date.

As part of its efforts, Eisai is supplying the medicine diethylcarbamazine (DEC) free of charge to the WHO, for seven years starting from 2013, in support of WHO's program to eliminate lymphatic filariasis. In total, approximately 2.2 billion DEC tablets will be supplied to WHO and through mass drug administration programs (MDAs) of WHO, more than 250 million people living in at-risk communities in some 30 countries and territories will benefit from the project.

As it expands its business in both emerging and developing nations in this era of great globalization, Eisai considers its contributions to the economic development and expansion of the middle-income class through the enhancement of health and welfare in these countries as a form of long-term investment for future growth.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Liverpool (UoL)

The Department of Chemistry at UoL has made major contributions towards understanding the mechanisms of drug-action of several classes of anti-parasitic drugs. Over 20 years in partnership, UoL and LSTM have adopted a molecule to man strategy in which research projects have been instigated, operating at all stages of the drug discovery pipeline up to and including clinical trials in humans. A total of three projects have contributed to the portfolio of the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), an organization that has developed the largest portfolio of anti-malarial drugs in history.

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Mrs Clare Bebb
Senior Media Officer
Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Office: +44 (0)151 705 3135
Mobile: +44 (0)7889535222

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