R&D status November 2015: DNDi Filarial diseases programme

Filarial diseases are caused by parasitic worms of the helminth family. They include onchocerciasis (also known as River Blindness), lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis), and loiasis (also known as African eye-worm). The worms are transmitted by insect vectors to humans, mainly in Africa and Southeast Asia. About 168 million people are infected by the three diseases.

Among them, 120 million suffer from lymphatic filariasis and 37million suffer from onchocerciasis. While rarely fatal, these diseases affect millions of people and inflict immense hardship. For 20 years, the treatment and control strategy for filarial diseases has been Mass Drug Administration programmes based on drug donations directed by the World Health Organization, and designed to reduce morbidity and disease transmission. Despite the success of these programmes in reducing prevalence in many countries, filarial diseases still prevail and challenges remain to achieve their elimination. The existing drugs used in MDA programmes can take over a decade to work because they kill the juvenile form of worms but not the adult worms which carry on reproducing.

DNDi’s discovery and development programme focuses on screening for macrofilaricide drug candidates from repurposing libraries where compounds have previously been in development or reached registration for human and animal health.



Two projects are in the translation phase:

  • Emodepside1: Emodepside, an NCE under clinical development with Bayer AG for onchocerciasis, will enter healthy volunteer studies this year.
  • Macro-filaricide 2: Preliminary safety and toxicology profiling of two derivatives of a veterinary antibiotic suggest a favourable safety profile. Additional studies are currently underway to confirm the safety and tolerability of these compounds.


DNDi aims to develop a new oral, short-course macrofilaricide treatment for adults and children with potential application to treat both onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis

[1] An agreement was signed between Bayer and DNDi in December 2014 – Bayer will provide the active ingredient emodepside to DNDi. Emodepside originates from the Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas and has been developed by Bayer HealthCare’s Animal Health division for veterinary use. Astellas has granted Bayer the rights to develop emodepside along these lines.