Kent helps in the fight against deadly parasites

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The University of Kent’s School of Biosciences is to play a major role in a global project to develop new drugs to combat parasites.

The four-year, EU-funded project will involve Kent conducting joint research with four other academic institutions, two governmental institutes and two leading SMEs from Europe, Africa and Latin America to tackle the problem of neglected parasitic diseases (NPDs), which form a major obstacle to the development of communities across the world.

These diseases are classified as ‘neglected’ as investment in finding cures for these illnesses is extremely low, despite their devastating impact on human and veterinary health.

Led by VU University Amsterdam, the project titled PDE4NPD (PhosphoDiEsterase inhibitors to target Neglected Parasitic Diseases) will focus specifically on Chagas’ disease, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis.

Over the last 30 years, only nine new drugs targeting these NPDs have come to market. Some of these treatments cause severe side effects, while others are very expensive or are threatened by drug resistance issues. A cause of this drug development standstill is a lack of financial incentive and low return on investment for the pharmaceutical industry.

Kent will contribute expertise in the areas of structural biology and biochemistry. Bioscience’s Professor David Brown said: ‘I have had a long standing involvement in the development of PDE inhibitors and I am excited to expand the network of interacting groups within the consortium, bringing together all the skills and expertise required to develop and deliver PDE focused agents for intervention in Neglected Parasitic Diseases.’

As well as the University of Kent and VU University Amsterdam, the project consortium consists of the universities of Glasgow and Antwerp, The Spanish National Research Council, Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz (Brazil), Theodor Bilharz Research Institute (Egypt), European Screening Port (Germany), IOTA Pharmaceuticals (UK) and Top Institute Pharma (Netherlands). The project will combine various drug discovery approaches into one platform dedicated to developing drugs against parasite PDEs.

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