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New Consortium to Develop Drugs for Neglected Tropical Diseases

LEIDEN, The Netherlands, August 17 /PRNewswire/ -- A new consortium has been formed to boost drug development for the treatment of two deadly diseases, African sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis, which affect millions of people worldwide. A total budget of nearly 3.6 million euros has been allocated over the next 4 years, to develop effective drugs for these diseases. The consortium includes IOTA Pharmaceuticals, Mercachem, Nycomed, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, the Royal Tropical Institute, the University of Bern, the VU University Amsterdam and TI Pharma.

Rob Leurs (VU University Amsterdam), the project's principal investigator, comments: "African sleeping sickness and Leishmaniasis are diseases caused by parasites. Both diseases are prominent on the World Health Organization's list of neglected tropical diseases for which no effective medication is available." The new consortium will target parasite-specific phosphodiesterase to develop and screen drug candidates for clinical evaluation and the treatment of both diseases. Leurs continues: "This new project combines the knowledge and experience of leading European laboratories and promises to make a major contribution to the treatment of neglected tropical diseases."

African sleeping sickness

Recent WHO estimates indicate that approximately 60 million people are at risk of contracting the African sleeping sickness (also called human African trypanosomiasis) with an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 new cases occurring each year. The disease appears in 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is endemic in south-east Uganda and western Kenya, killing more than 40,000 Africans each year. The African sleeping sickness parasite, most commonly Trypanosoma brucei, is transmitted to humans by tsetse fly bites.


Leishmaniasis is found in many tropical and sub-tropical countries, in settings as diverse as the rainforests in Central and South America to deserts in Asia and the Middle East. 350 million people are at risk of developing the disease, with as many as 12 million people worldwide being infected, and 1.5-2 million new cases occurring each year. Leishmaniasis presents in cutaneous, visceral and mucosal forms, with the visceral form of the disease alone having an estimated incidence of 500,000 new cases each year, and causing 60,000 deaths. Many different Leishmania species are implicated in the disease, which is transmitted by sand flies.

Neglected diseases framework

Neglected diseases such as African Sleeping Sickness, Leishmaniasis and Malaria, represent a major economic burden on developing countries. Within its project portfolio, TI Pharma is seeking to develop solutions to these diseases, mobilizing public and private partners in multilateral consortia - bringing together a wide range of competences and resources. This new project on phosphodiesterase is TI Pharma's sixth initiative in neglected diseases. Other projects focus on:

    - the development of a protective malaria vaccine;
    - a 'proof of concept' vaccine for Chikungunya;
    - an effective HIV therapy;
    - drug formulations that can resist tropical conditions without
      refrigeration for both oxytocin and insulin as well as vaccines for
      hepatitis B and influenza;
    - fixed dose combinations of formulations for drugs, applicable to
      combination therapies in many diseases, including neglected diseases.

For more information on TI Pharma's projects on neglected diseases, please visit

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