Unit | Parasite Chemotherapy

The Parasite Chemotherapy Unit is the drug discovery centre for protozoan parasites. It draws on over 20 years of experience in parasite propagation to assess the chemotherapeutic potential of compounds against Plasmodium spp., African trypanosomes, Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania. The research of the Parasite Chemotherapy groups comprises three main areas:

Drug discovery work

A substantial part of the research concentrates on developing novel in vitro assays and in vivo models. Drug discovery activities are complemented by preclinical studies on drug absorption and pharmacokinetics. Further, molecular biology and bioinformatic approaches target the mechanisms of drug resistance and the mode of drug action. The unit has a screening mandate from the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) Foundation and became the main centre for WHO/TDR for in vitro screening against protozoan parasites.

Pascal Mäser

Pascal Mäser

Associate Professor, PhD

Eastern Africa Network for Trypanosomiasis (EANETT)

Besides working on new drugs, the group also collaborates with African partner institutes in the Eastern Africa Network for Trypanosomosis (EANETT) in the area of sleeping sickness research and control. The Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC) awarded the network a second phase of support for 2004–2006. A major goal for this phase will be to involve the network in international activities with access to additional funding.

Tsetse Transmission

A further element of activities deals with studies of trypanosome transmission through the tsetse fly vector to gain more knowledge about the life cycle of the parasite and the function of certain surface proteins.

The Parasite Chemotherapy Unit (PCU) is a drug discovery center for protozoan parasites. We have over 20 years of experience in assay development and drug efficacy testing for the causative agents of malaria (Plasmodium spp.), African sleeping sickness (Trypanosoma brucei), Chagas' disease (T. cruzi), Leishmanioses (Leishmania spp.) and diarrhea (Entamoeba and Giardia). Primary and secondary in vitro tests are combined with mouse models of the diseases (for African trypanosomes and malaria) and with molecular approaches on the mechanisms of drug action and drug resistance. The PCU is closely collaborating with product-development-partnerships such as MMV, DNDi or GALVmed, with academic partners from all over the globe, and with pharma companies. The PCU has been instrumental to the development of several clinical candidates including fexinidazole for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) and artefenomel for malaria. The PCU was founded by Prof. Reto Brun and is led by Prof. Pascal Mäser.

Kruth S et al. Generation of aurachin derivatives by whole-cell biotransformation and evaluation of their antiprotozoal properties. Molecules. 2023;28:1066. DOI: 10.3390/molecules28031

Albisetti A, Venugopal K, Guérin A. New frontiers in host-parasite interactions, from cell to organism. Mol Microbiol. 2022(in press). DOI: 10.1111/mmi.15013

Beilstein S, El Phil R, Sahraoui S.S, Scapozza L, Kaiser M, Mäser P. Laboratory selection of trypanosomatid pathogens for drug resistance. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2022;15(2):135. DOI: 10.3390/ph15020135

Bernhard S, Kaiser M, Burri C, Mäser P. Fexinidazole for human African trypanosomiasis, the fruit of a successful public-private partnership. Diseases. 2022;10(4):90. DOI: 10.3390/diseases10040090

de Vries L.E et al. Preclinical characterization and target validation of the antimalarial pantothenamide MMV693183. Nat Commun. 2022;13:2158. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29688-5