Drug Discovery

Tropical parasitic diseases, as malaria, African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease or Leishmaniasis represent still a large health risk for a majority of the worlds population. These diseases cause over 3 million deaths per year. The high number of disease cases is substantial cause of impediment for the economic development of the countries and the people concerned.
The available drugs for treatment have some important disadvantages:

  • reduced availability and high prize
  • strong side effects
  • long treatment, which can for some drugs only be done in hospital
  • drug resistance development

Our drug discovery work began about 20 years ago with the establishment of semi-automated in vitro assays to determine the activity of compounds and the corresponding rodent models. In the meantime our group became the leading centre for WHO/TDR for in vitro and in vivo drug screening against human infectious protozoan parasites. Within this screening mandate we have more then20 collaborations worldwide. These screening activities complement activities within the European COST B22 action ‘Drugd evelopment for parasitic diseases’.
Another major project is called‘Oral diamidines for sleeping sickness’ lead by the University of North Carolina and funded by the Gates Foundation. Recently we signed a contract with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) for the preclinical evaluation of new compounds. The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) Foundation supports the project ‘Syntheticperoxides’ and the new projects ‘Oral diamidines for malaria’. With a master contract with the MMV, we moved from individual project funding to a screening mandate for the Swiss TPH. This and the contracts with WHO/TDRand DNDi will secure the continuity of the screening unit mid- to longterm.
Two new projects were recently added to our drug discovery portfolio, drug evaluation and lead identification for animal diseases and for foodborne trematodes.

in vitro screening assays animal models
Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense /T. b. gambiense Acute T. b. rhodesiense (STIB 900), T. b. brucei (STIB 795)
Trypanosoma cruzi Chronic central nervous system T. b. brucei model (GVR35)
Leishmania donovani - axenic amastigotes - in mouse macrophages T. b. gambiense model (STIB 754) in SCID mice
Plasmodium falciparum (various strains) Plasmodium berghei model (ANKA strain)
Giardia intestinalis Babesia spp. models
Babesia divergens Schistosoma spp. models
Human and animal cell lines