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Durham University

Department of Biosciences

News and Events

Durham leads £8M Global Network to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases

(22 July 2017)

Academics from the Department of Biosciences (Paul Denny and Ehmke Pohl) and the Department of Chemistry (Graham Sandford, Steven Cobb and Patrick Steel) have joined forces with colleagues from York (Jeremy Mottram), Sao Paulo (Ariel Silber) and Kalkotta (Nahid Ali) to lead an ambitious effort to combat neglected tropical diseases (NTD). The insect-vector borne protozoan diseases leishmaniasis (caused by Leishmania spp.) and Chagas disease (caused by Trypanosomas cruzi) represent huge challenges in endemic regions of South America, Africa and Asia. It is estimated that >350 million people world-wide are at risk from leishmaniasis with up to 1 million new case per year and more than 20.000 deaths per year. Chagas disease affects 6-7 million people worldwide with most cases in Latin America. Up to 30% of chronically infected patients develop cardiac alterations, 10% develop additional symptoms requiring expensive and long-lasting treatments leading to up to 10,.000 deaths per year. Current treatment options are limited and come with severe adverse effects.

This global consortium led by Graham Sanford (Durham Chemistry) includes more than 50 partners from 14 different institution from the UK, Brazil, India and Pakistian. It brings together expertise ranging from chemistry, biophysics, to structural and cell biology as well as parasitology. The overall aim is to deliver and validate new drug targets for the drug discovery pipeline in academia and in the pharmaceutical industries.

With its focus on generating new capabilities in lower and middle-income countries the initiative will also ensure that there is a sustainable global network of researchers who can continue to push forward research into neglected tropical diseases generally both in the UK and on the global stage.

Network Co-ordinator for South America, Prof Ariel Silber (University of São Paulo, Brazil), agrees Academics and institutions researching on both diseases in our continent will benefit from the formation and introduction to the research community a new generation of highly qualified researchers, trained in multidisciplinary and multicultural environments. This will be the core set of new capacities that this initiative will deliver to Latin American research institutions providing "an army" of highly trained young scientists with the necessary skills and commitment to drive forward the search for new alternatives to the drugs currently in use’.

In Asia, Prof Nahid Ali (Indian Institute for Chemical Biology, Kolkata) states ‘Our global network project involving participants from the UK and different endemic countries will enable us to share knowledge about various strains of Leishmania parasites and evolving disease forms. Dynamic networking with different collaborators in the field of disease diagnosis, understanding the disease biology and therapeutics will help to manage the disease leading to significant social and economic impact’.

Further information can be found here.