The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a nonprofit research and development organization, has announced a £10 million ($12.9 million) commitment from the UK-based Wellcome Trust in support of new treatments for leishmaniasis, one of the world's most devastating parasitic diseases.
More than a billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by the bite of certain sandflies. Visceral leishmaniasis, the most serious form of the disease, causes fever, weight loss, spleen and liver enlargement, and, if left untreated, death. Currently, patients suffering from the disease must undergo treatments that have serious drawbacks in terms of safety, duration, resistance, stability, and cost.
The three-year partnership will bring together a consortium of research and development partners — including the University of Dundee, Celgene, GSK, Pfizer, the TB Alliance, and Takeda Pharmaceutical — that have built portfolios of lead series, pre-clinical. and clinical drug candidates originating from different chemical classes with different mechanisms of action against leishmania parasites. The program will evaluate ten drug candidates, with the goal of selecting two all-oral new chemical entities (NCEs) for testing as a combination in Phase II studies in patients.
"Wellcome has a long-standing commitment to support innovative new treatments for neglected tropical diseases," said Steve Caddick, director of innovation at Wellcome. "This strategic investment to support DNDi's comprehensive program for leishmaniasis is a great opportunity to build on Wellcome's work with a number of academic and industry partnerships in drug discovery in NTDs. As part of our Flagships initiative, we are committed to working with partners to try and drive improvements in the development process by harnessing new technologies to drive further innovation, at speed and scale. Working with DNDi on this program is central to achieving these goals, and we’re hopeful that this will transform the lives of people suffering from this devastating disease."