£10m donated to fight neglected tropical diseases

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A sum of £10 million has been donated to the University of Dundee in Scotland, UK, to enable it to carry out research into a number of neglected...

A sum of £10 million has been donated to the University of Dundee in Scotland, UK, to enable it to carry out research into a number of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The money has been contributed by the Wellcome Trust research institute and the study will also be supported by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Dundee University is aiming to find appropriate drug treatments for some of the world’s most neglected parasitic diseases, including African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

Within five years it is hoped at least one treatment for one of the diseases will have been developed.

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The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee has already made progress over the last few years in working towards a treatment for African sleeping sickness.

It has also received promising results from its attempts to identify an appropriate treatment for leishmaniasis.

 “Currently we have a portfolio of discovery projects in various stages of development in African sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis,” explained Professor Mike Ferguson, from the University of Dundee.

“We have several types of compounds with promising activity in animal models.

“The next step is to chemically modify these molecules to find the optimal balance of drug-like properties for clinical trials.”

The DDU will now work with GSK’s Kinetoplastids Discovery Performance Unit (DPU) at the company's Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus in Spain to further develop these and other affordable treatments.

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the DDU, commented: “We are very pleased to have GSK as a valued partner in the project.

“The support from the Wellcome Trust has enabled us to create a powerful team by combining DDU's and GSK's considerable expertise and infrastructure, to accelerate progress towards discovering new drugs for these terrible diseases.

“We have already forged a very productive partnership and look forward to an exciting and successful future.”

Meanwhile, Professor Alan Fairlamb shared his views on why it is so important to develop treatments for neglected tropical diseases.

“These parasitic diseases, which afflict millions of people worldwide, are collectively responsible for about 150,000 deaths every year in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” he said.

“The drugs currently used to treat patients are often difficult to administer, have toxic side-effects and are not always effective due to drug resistance.

“Better, safer drugs are needed that are cheap and easy to administer, because most of these patients are living in poverty without access to hospitals or clinics.”  

The £10 million donation is in addition to a separate grant Fairlamb received from the Wellcome Trust to carry out investigations into Chagas disease.

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