University of Dundee

Funding award to research potential single dose malaria treatment

28 Apr 2021

Experts at the University of Dundee have been awarded £2.4 million to identify compounds that could pave the way for a single dose treatment for malaria.

A team at the University’s Drug Discovery Unit (DDU), based within the School of Life Sciences, will utilise the funding to support development of a compound series that inhibits an enzyme involved in protein synthesis.

The major grant has been awarded by the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund to a team at the DDU, led by Professor Ian Gilbert, Professor Kevin Read and Dr Beatriz Baragaña. They have been working in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), on a way to kill the malaria parasite by stopping it from making its own proteins. The team will also partner with Eisai Co., Ltd. (Eisai), one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies.

Professor Gilbert said, “We are very grateful for the funding from the Global Health Innovative Technology Fund to allow us to further progress this series of compounds. This work will continue to be carried out in collaboration with MMV. We are also very pleased to partner with Eisai, with their huge experience of developing new medicines, which will greatly facilitate the development of this compound series.”

Malaria remains a major threat to life and is caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2019, the World Health Organisation estimated that there were 229 million cases of malaria worldwide, resulting in more than 400,000 deaths. Children are particularly vulnerable to the disease, accounting for 67% of all deaths worldwide.

The DDU is recognised as a leading centre in malaria treatment research and has twice won MMV’s Project of the Year award for its research into new drugs to combat the parasite.

The initial focus of this latest programme will be on further optimising the compound series to identify a compound which has the potential for treatment of malaria with a single dose. This will be followed by a raft of experiments to determine if the compound has suitable properties for further development.

Professor Kevin Read said, “There is an urgent need for the development of new medicines to treat this terrible disease, due to the parasites that cause malaria becoming resistant to current drugs. There is also a need for new medicines to prevent people developing malaria in the first place and to prevent the spread of this disease.”

Dr Baragaña added, “We have had a very fruitful collaboration with MMV over many years and we are very excited to be collaborating with Eisai, with their expertise in developing new medicines.”

“This award to Dundee’s Drug Discovery Unit is extremely well deserved. The team have spearheaded several cutting-edge malaria research projects, this one included,” said Dr Jeremy Burrows, MMV’s Head of Drug Discovery. “This project draws on structure-based drug design enabling us to optimize the potency and selectivity of the compounds. The grant will help us further this work aimed at ultimately identifying a promising candidate for further development.”

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