Eisai announced that it has entered a collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the University of Liverpool (UoL) to identify new drugs that are effective against lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis (river blindness), both major types of the parasitic tropical disease filariasis.
Under the collaboration, Eisai will work with the nonprofit LSTM to develop and implement new tools and technologies for the control and treatment of tropical diseases, and with UoL, a world-class institute that has made major contributions toward understanding the mechanisms of drug action of several classes of anti-parasitic drugs, to identify and develop novel drug candidates that efficiently eliminate the bacteria Wolbachia. Wolbachia live inside the parasitic worms, known as filariae, which cause lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis. These two filarial infectious diseases affect more than 150 million people worldwide. As filariae are dependent on Wolbachia bacteria for growth, development, reproduction and survival, the worms can be effectively eradicated by first eliminating the Wolbachia inside them.
While current anti-filarial treatments are effective against larvae and microfilariae, they require many years of consistent, annual mass drug administration in endemic communities to successfully eliminate the adult worms. Anti-Wolbachia therapy is expected to lead to worm sterility and effective worm eradication, thereby reducing treatment times and improving therapeutic outcomes compared to existing anti-filarial drugs. Furthermore, as anti-Wolbachia programs are still in their infancy, this collaboration has the potential to provide a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution to communities affected by filariasis.
To date, the screening of more than 10,000 potential anti-Wolbachia compounds has revealed approximately 50 potentially promising compounds, leading to identification of about six chemotypes with anti-infective potential. Eisai and its collaboration partners will focus on two of these with the aim of identifying a single candidate for potential drug development within one to two years.
This unique approach has been awarded a two-year grant by the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), an international non-profit organization that aims to promote the discovery of new health technologies for eliminating infectious diseases prevalent in developing countries.
In support of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s program to eliminate lymphatic filariasis by 2020, Eisai is supplying diethylcarbamazine (DEC) free of charge to the WHO. Under its collaboration with LSTM and UoL, Eisai aims to make new treatments available as early as possible to help patients with filariasis and thereby increase further the healthcare benefits provided to these patients and their families in developing and emerging countries.
Date: March 20, 2014