US$12 Million In Grants Awarded For Neglected Diseases

Japan’s Global Health Initiative Technology Fund has committed US$12 million in grants for neglected diseases and a potential tuberculosis vaccine.

AsianScientist (Mar. 20, 2014) – The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), a Japanese public health initiative, has committed a total of US$12.45 million to address neglected diseases such as Chagas disease and schistosomiasis.

The first grant, for US$3.84 million, goes to Switzerland’s Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Eisai of Japan for a new combination therapy for Chagas disease, which kills more people in Latin America than any other parasitic disease. It is spread by the Assassin bug (pictured), infecting an estimated eight million people.

The current drugs for Chagas (benznidazole and nifurtimox) are poorly tolerated in adults, hard to use and frequently fail to cure chronic infections. GHIT’s grant will enable the investigators to conduct a Phase II proof-of-concept study for a combination therapy consisting of benznidazole and an experimental triazole compound known as E1224.

The other two grants of US$1.86 million and US$1.09 million have been awarded to projects studying schistosomiasis and Wolbachia bacteria respectively.

Schistosomiasis is endemic in 78 countries and affects more than 230 million people, including 100 million children, while Wolbachia works in concert with parasitic roundworms, or filaria, and thus plays a role in parasitic diseases like elephantiasis and river blindness (onchocerciasis), which together afflict more than 150 million people.

US$5.65 million has also been set aside for work on a novel vaccine candidate to combat tuberculosis. The vaccine candidate is focused on enhancing mucosal immunity to act as the first line of resistance against infection with tuberculosis, and is the first to target the patient’s mucous membranes to keep TB from making an entry into the lungs.

In addition, the GHIT Fund will provide US$2.2 million over a period of two years under the Hit-to-Lead Platform program.

“Japanese pharmaceutical companies and research institutes have considerable resources—including compound libraries that have yet to be screened to see what they might have to offer for infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and neglected diseases,” said Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, chair of the board of the GHIT Fund.

“The Hit-to-Lead Platform will expand the drug pipeline for these diseases by bringing forward compounds that have not been previously screened or that are known to target mechanisms of action in a new and more effective way,” he said.


Source: GHIT Fund; Photo: Linda Tanner/Flickr/CC.

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