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Compound might defeat African sleeping sickness, clinical trial beginning this month

countries often fly beneath the profit radar of large pharmaceutical companies," Tidwell said. "That's because large companies require a high return on their investments, which means they don't have sufficient incentives to develop low-cost drugs. Despite being one of Africa's most prevalent and economically devastating illnesses, sleeping sickness is definitely one of those that has been neglected. For that reason, we decided to put this consortium together, and that's why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was very interested in supporting our work."

The group has since become one of the models for public-private partnerships to discover and develop drugs for poorer countries or neglected diseases, Tidwell said.

"We have been able to reduce the cost of drug discovery to a fraction of the cost it would take a large drug company to do it, but we're not cutting corners, and we're using some of the best technology and scientists in the world to accomplish these goals," he said.

Dr. Carol Olson, vice president and chief medical officer of Immtech, said she and colleagues started the Phase III clinical trial this month. The new pivotal trial will involve approximately 250 patients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. Angola will be included if a recent outbreak there of the Ebola-like Marburg virus remains under control.

"The Swiss Tropical Institute will be responsible for selecting patients and carefully monitoring the trials," said Olson, who helped design and will oversee the study. She is an infectious disease expert who retired after a long career with Abbott Laboratories.

"We're trying to improve the lives of these patients by treating the disease early on in the local villages before it progresses to the terminal brain stage," the physician said. "When a drug works and helps a lot of people, that's when all our hard work really pays off, and we can be proud of our efforts."

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Source:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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