LOLA: DNDi’s first innovative neglected disease early-stage research programme launches in Latin America

One of the most important achievements of DNDi Latin America is the beginning of the Lead Optimization Latin America project (LOLA), with a focus on the first steps of Research & Development (R&D) for new medicines: the discovery of new compounds. This is a crucial step in the expansion of R&D projects in the region.

In collaboration with UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and soon with USP (University of São Paulo, São Carlos campus), in Brazil, the aim of this project is to identify and develop new promising compounds for the treatment of neglected diseases by optimizing compound leads, with appropriate activity and safety profiles. The research will be focused on compounds with activity against Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania spp, i.e., designed to treat Chagas disease and leishmaniasis. In the long-term, goals and expectations grow in order to meet the need for innovative discoveries for the treatment of neglected diseases. The aim is to develop drugs which can be orally administered, are highly effective, and have low toxicity and cost.

This partnership is consolidated by the chemistry experience of UNICAMP and DNDi’s access to pharmaceutical and biotechnology partners’ libraries of compounds and expertise in evaluation and safety. Among those associated is the WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases of the World Health Organization (TDR / WHO), and other academic institutions. Access is increasingly being gained to compound libraries of large international pharmaceutical companies, which also support the group providing expertise in medicinal chemistry and professional advice and training on drug discovery.

The LOLA project aims to build upon and enhance the research and development potential in the region. With an international collaborative approach, this ‘virtual laboratory’ sets a precedent for all emerging neglected disease endemic countries. For the first time, our early stage R&D activities are rooted in Latin America.

Increasingly, DNDi’s capacity strengthening focused, patient-driven and regionally-oriented vision, makes it possible, even probable, to conduct all phases of the best science where patients are most neglected.