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New funding boosts research for controlling TB, malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis

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Bobby Ramakant, CNS (Citizen News Service)

GHIT CEO Dr BT Slingsby
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(CNS): An additional investment of US$ 10.7 million has been announced by Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund) to find more effective tools to control and eliminate TB, malaria, dengue and leishmaniasis. Dr BT Slingsby, CEO of GHIT Fund spoke with CNS (Citizen News Service) before this announcement: "We have been investing in these diseases for over 2 years now. Antimicrobial resistance has been creeping up, particularly in Asia, making drugs used to treat TB and malaria ineffective. If we look at dengue, after a gap of 70 years, Japan had a major spread of dengue 2 years ago. Controlling and eliminating these diseases is very important for global health. Without right interventions and right innovations in place it will be very difficult to effectively eliminate, and in some cases, eradicate these diseases."

The new investment into research has come at a very crucial time for all four diseases: new drugs and vaccines for TB and malaria are desperately needed to fight rising resistance to existing therapies, while dengue infections continue to mount worldwide - and with no drugs or vaccines yet on the market to treat or prevent them. Meanwhile, disease experts fear the chaos caused by the war in Syria and neighboring Iraq could greatly intensify infections with leishmaniasis, a dangerous and potentially deadly disease spread by sandflies.

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"Right now, we do not have the right tools to effectively control, eliminate or eradicate these 4 diseases. We want to use Japanese innovation and technology, capabilities and capacities of pharmaceuticals, research institutions and academia, to drive forward the development of these new technologies for global health. We are trying to do that quickly - and as urgently as possible!" said Dr Slingsby.

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New drugs must work against drug-resistant malaria!

According to the latest WHO estimates, released in September 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria and 438,000 deaths. "Unless we have new technologies that are effective against drug-resistant strains of malaria we are actually, in a way, adding to the problem" said Dr Slingsby. That is why GHIT Fund is awarding US$ 297,133 to support a partnership between the Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), and the University of Melbourne. The three organizations are working together to develop tests or "assays" that would enable them to find a way to overcome the malaria parasite's drug resistance. They will work to identify compounds capable of inhibiting proteasome activity within the cells of malaria parasites, the action that is so critical to the parasite's survival. Preliminary evidence suggests that proteasome inhibitors, a class of drugs currently used as anticancer agents, might have the potential to restore the effectiveness of the world's leading malaria drug, artemisinin, and its derivatives.

In Greater Mekong Subregion of Southeast Asia, malaria drugs are losing their effectiveness, as malaria parasites develop resistance to both artemisinin medications and the 'partner' drugs administered alongside them. Taken together they are known as 'artemisinin combination therapies' (or ACTs) and are the current gold standard for malaria care.

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"These projects are in early stage of development, but build on Takeda's work with proteasome inhibitors, which has already led to new medicines for other diseases, including certain types of cancer," said Dr Timothy Wells, chief scientific officer at Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). "Combining proteasome expertise with malaria expertise represents a very innovative approach."

Finding tools to control both: visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis

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