Filarial DiseasesResearch


  • Target disease: Filarial diseases
  • Main partners (since project start): Celgene Corporation, USA; Museum of Natural History Paris (MNHM), France; Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, UK; University Hospital of Bonn, Institute of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, Germany; University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG), Switzerland.
  • Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA; Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders, Department for International Development (DFID), UK.


Overall objective:

  • Develop a macrofilaricide candidate for filarial diseases.


Following a drug repurposing strategy, screening of compounds against Onchocerca guttura and Onchocerca lienalis identified several candidates from compound libraries provided by pharmaceutical companies. These compound collections are well-characterized chemical series which have been extensively optimized for use in other indications. Although the project was quite successful, none of the identified candidates had a drug profile with utility for filarial diseases. Screening of several more companies yielded further candidates. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, these companies are conducting a hit-to-lead and lead optimization programme, which aims to develop a drug candidate for filarial indications. DNDi has contributed to this effort by providing biological resources, expertise, and the target product profile to select the best candidates.


Lead optimisation of a novel class of compounds with macrofilaricidal profiles is on-going with the aim to select a candidate for pre-clinical development in 2019.

In 2017, candidates from four distinct chemical series were evaluated through the lead optimization effort conducted in collaboration with Celgene while others were evaluated through the Macrofilaricide Drug Accelerator (MAC DA) led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of efforts to develop a third microfilaricide candidate for development.

One successful compound is a well-known antihelminthic (oxfendazole) that is currently being investigated for feasibility of use in humans.These efforts will continue throughout 2018.

In conjunction with industrial partners, Abbvie and Celgene, further lead optimization was carried out. These efforts will continue throughout 2017, with the aim of delivering a pre-clinical candidate for filarial diseases.


Last update: August 2019