New GHIT grant to fund next stage in anti-Wolbachia drug discovery

Scientists at the University’s Department of Chemistry, alongside the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai, have been awarded a Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) grant which will fund the development of a new drug to target the neglected tropical diseases lymphatic filariasis (LF) and onchocerciasis, both debilitating infections affecting more than 150 million people globally.

The £3,250,000 funding for this new phase will support a series of Phase I human clinical trials, which will assess the safety of the drug in humans. This is an essential step in the development of a new drug to use as treatment against LF and onchocerciasis.

LSTM’s Deputy Director and project lead, Professor Steve Ward said “We are extremely pleased and proud to be able to continue this unique partnership between LSTM, the University of Liverpool and Eisai. Our approach of killing the parasitic worm by targeting the essential bacteria within the worm is totally unique and one that offers many advantages over drugs that target worms directly.”

Proof-of-concept clinical trials have already shown that this alternative approach works and can reduce elimination timeframes significantly from decades to years. The drug candidate also has the potential to be used in the whole population, including children and pregnant women.
AWZ1066S, provides a unique opportunity to make a large contribution to communities affected by these diseases.

This novel molecule was developed from a screening hit by several rounds of chemistry optimisation at the University’s Department of Chemistry.

Liverpool Chemist, Professor Paul O’Neill, said “ Our optimisations from a hit to preclinical candidate were achieved in under three years which underlines the success of the medicinal chemistry approaches used in this project.”

Dr David Hong, development team ,added: “ Receiving the financial support (award) from GHIT to enable the progression to human clinical trials is an important milestone in filariasis drug discovery.”

The GHIT Fund facilitates and funds global partnerships for the discovery and development of new health technologies, including drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, for infectious and neglected tropical diseases prevalent in developing countries.