DNDi and Indian scientists collaborate in hunt for new drugs for neglected diseases

[ Delhi, India – October 4, 2005 ]
The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), a not-for-profit drug development initiative, is collaborating with the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) Lucknow to test their library of compounds for possible activity against parasites that cause deadly neglected diseases such as kala azar and sleeping sickness.

Future collaborations are planned with the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB), Kolkata, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on various research projects, from developing combinations of drugs for kala azar to running clinical trials for new artesunate based combination therapies for malaria.

Partnering to discover new compounds for neglected diseases

For the first time, an Indian research institute, CDRI, will provide its expertise and laboratory facilities to help research a new drug for sleeping sickness, a disease that does not affect the sub-continent but kills thousands in Africa.

“ Although sleeping sickness is not an Indian disease, we have come to a point in our growth where we can share our scientific capabilities and capacities to benefit patients suffering from fatal diseases in other parts of the world. CDRI has cutting equipment that can be used to rapidly screen thousands of compounds checking for their ability to kill parasites that cause disease ,” said Dr C.M.Gupta, Director, CDRI.

In this discovery project with DNDi, CDRI will screen thousands of compounds using state-of-the art equipment and a technique called High Throughput Screening (HTS) in the hope of identifying those that can kill the parasites that cause kala azar and sleeping sickness and then be developed into new drugs for these diseases.

DNDi is also considering collaboration with the IICB to research new drugs against kala azar

“ India can play a leadership role in the fight against neglected disease. It has significant capacity and capability in the field of drug research, for example at CDRI and IICB. And this capacity is growing. We will use CDRI’s facilities to screen compounds for sleeping sickness and kala azar, and provide training for a CDRI scientist in screening techniques at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ,” said DNDi’s Executive Director, Bernard Pecoul.

Proposed pre-clinical development projects

With other Indian groups, DNDi is investigating the possibility of combining existing kala azar drugs such as miltefosine and amphotericin B to provide a shorter treatment regime. A combination of two or more drugs is also considered an effective way of reducing the development of resistance to a drug.

Proposed clinical development projects

Talks are ongoing with ICMR to hold clinical trials for fixed-dose artesunate-based combination therapies (FACT) to treat chloroquine resistant falciparum malaria. DNDi has developed two new FACTs, artesunate/amodiaquine and artesunate/mefloquine, that are easy to use, as effective as using separate tablets, and should be available to patients in 2006 at an affordable price. These drugs have recently been through successful Phase III clinical trials in Burkina Faso and Thailand , in collaboration with eight research institutions across the world. DNDi hopes to conduct similar clinical trials for these two drugs in India in collaboration with ICMR to assess its effectiveness in malaria patients.

“ Our relationship with India goes back to DNDi’s very inception. ICMR is one of our founding partners and has strongly supported us in our work to develop drugs for the poorest of the poor who continue to be treated with old, unaffordable, and often toxic medicines for their diseases. Access to India’s scientific expertise and superb research facilities can help accelerate the search for new drugs for neglected diseases ,” said Simon Croft, DNDi’s R&D Director.

“ DNDi believes in using existing expertise and facilities to develop drugs sorely needed in the poorest regions of the world. Via the implementation of our projects, we can also strengthen capability in disease endemic countries. Everyone wins, but more importantly, patients get much needed drugs, ” said Bernard Pecoul.

For further information please contact:
Jaya Banerji, DNDi : Mobile +41 79 210 93 78 jbanerji@dndi.org
Nymphia Vishin, Imprimis: Mobile + 91 98992 16600

DNDI is a not-for-profit drug development organization established in 2003. It was founded by four publicly-funded research organisations – Indian Council for Medical Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Brazil, Malaysian Ministry of Health; a private research institute, the Institut Pasteur; an international research organisation WHO’s Tropical Diseases Research programme; and an international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.

DNDi’s vision is to improve the health and quality of life of people suffering from neglected disease. It aims to develop 6 to 8 new , improved and field-relevant drugs by 2014 for human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and malaria that afflict the very poor in developing countries. It will raise awareness of the urgent need to develop drugs for these diseases and use DNDi projects to strengthen existing capacity in disease-endemic countries.