The Paris-based Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and DNDi announced the implementation of scientific cooperation projects for developing treatments against visceral leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, and sleeping sickness. One of these projects concerns group of quinolines molecules that reached the optimization phase, a step that represents a significant breakthrough to become a drug candidate.

The IRD and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a non-profit product development partnership, have entered into two synergistic agreements to identify and develop new promising drug candidates against visceral leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and sleeping sickness.

This collaboration will allow the optimization and development of two chemical series of molecules: quinolines for visceral leishmaniasis and canthin-6-one alkaloids for Chagas disease. These series were identified by IRD scientific teams as having properties which could be translated into potential therapeutic efficacy.

These licensing agreements, which were granted by the IRD Expertise and Technology Transfert Department, will enable DNDi to develop its R&D portfolio and to enjoy the important knowledge of IRD researchers gained from their original work on the two chemical series. These molecules are the subject of patents owned by a joint cooperation of the IRD and CNRS in 2001 (1), and the IRD and one of its partners from the South, the National University of Asuncion in Paraguay, in 2003 (2).

"This agreement with the IRD allows us to expand our portfolio of promising compounds against neglected diseases and, in particular, to bring molecules active against trypanosomiasis and leishmaniasis into optimization phase," said Denis Martin, DNDi's Senior Project Manager in the R&D department.

With these two projects, the IRD will take advantage of the expertise, the know-how and the partners of DNDi's consortium to develop molecules until their final stage throughout the various steps of the development of a new drug (pre-clinical and clinical phases).

Through this collaboration with DNDi, the IRD follows a long tradition of research on leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and sleeping sickness, and takes part in the Scientific Committee that will monitor this program. Several of its research units are currently working on these very neglected diseases: the "Knowledge of Tropical Plant Resources and their Usage"; "Hosts, Vectors, and Parasites Interaction in trypanosomiatidae Infections"; "Health of Mother and Children under Tropical Conditions"; "Characterization and Control of Populations of Vectors"; and "Pharmacochemistry of Natural Substances and Pharmacophores Redox" Units.

"These licensing agreements represent a major step forward in research and development of new drugs against neglected diseases. With the collaboration with DNDi, the Quinolines and Canthin Projects will enter a phase of optimisation which is extremely encouraging in relation to the urgent need of developing new medicines that are more effective, and more adapted against leishmaniasis and Chagas disease," said Alain Fournet, the IRD's Director of Research in the unit "Knowledge of Tropical Plant Resources and their Usage" (Biodival).

With 12 million people infected, leishmaniasis is a serious, life-threatening illness, endemic in 88 countries. Chagas disease (South American trypanosomiasis) affects 7 to 8 million people in 18 countries in Latin America, according to the WHO. These parasitic infections cause irreversible damage to various organs (heart, oesophagus, liver, spleen, colon...) and may be accompanied by high fever or anaemia. So far, few effective treatments against these diseases are made available.

DNDi

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit product development partnership working to research and develop new and improved treatments for neglected diseases such as malaria, leishmaniasis, human African trypanosomiasis, and Chagas disease. With the objective to address unmet patient needs for these diseases, DNDi was established in 2003 by Institut Pasteur and Médecins Sans Frontières along with four publicly-funded research organizations in neglected disease-endemic countries. Working in partnership with industry and academia, DNDi has the largest ever R&D portfolio for the kinetoplastid diseases and currently has 2 post-registration, 5 clinical, and 4 preclinical projects, along with a wide variety of discovery activities. In 2008, DNDi has delivered its first two products, fixed-dose antimalarial "ASAQ" and "ASMQ". For further information, please consult dndi

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)

Created in 1944, the Paris-based Research Institute for Development is a public establishment of scientific and technological nature (EPST) with more than 2000 agents hired under the dual supervision of Ministries of Research and Cooperation, chaired by Mr. Jean-Francois Girard, State Councillor and headed by Professor Michel LAURENT.

The institute conducts research activities, expertise and training in Africa, Latin America, in Asia and Overseas French Tropical. The IRD researchers are mainly devoted to studying biotopes and environment, sustainable management of living resources, society development and health. For more than sixty years, teams of researchers are present in the field and work together with countries of the South to strengthen their research capabilities. The IRD activities are conducted in close collaboration with its partners in the North and South. Involved in many European and international scientific programmes, it relies on AIRD* in mobilizing research organizations and universities for research and development. ird.fr

*Inter-Agency body for Research for Development (IRD, CNRS, INSERM, Institut Pasteur, CIRAD and CPU).

(1) Patent n° PCT/FR2002/000140 du 17/01/2001 : Fakhfakh M., FigadèreI B., Fournet A., Franck X., Hocquemiller R., Prina E. "Substituted quinolines for the treatment of protozoan and retrovirus co-infections".

(2) Patent n° PCT/FR2003/003459 du 25/11/2002 : Ferreira ME, Fournet A., Rojas de Arias A., Hocquemiller R., Poupon E. "Use of canthin-6-one, plant extracts containing same and derivatives thereof for the treatment of trypanosomiasis".

ird.fr

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