Potential new antimalarial drug identified at the University of Dundee

A significant milestone reached in partnership with MMV

06 Feb 2014

The University of Dundee announced today that a compound developed in their Drug Discovery Unit has been selected by MMV, following a positive recommendation by MMV’s Expert Scientific Advisory Committee, to enter preclinical development.

Professor Ian Gilbert, Chair of Medicinal Chemistry at Dundee and one of the project leaders, said, “This compound has impressive antimalarial properties. It has potential for a single dose treatment of malaria. It also has the possibility to protect people from getting malaria in the first place and in stopping malaria being spread from infected people to others (a feature known as transmission-blocking).”

Dr Kevin Read, co-project leader and also based at Dundee, said, “We are very excited by this compound which belongs to a different chemical class to current antimalarial drugs. This compound will now undergo scale-up and further safety testing with a view to it entering human clinical trials within the next 18 months.”

Every year, there are over 200 million cases of malaria across the globe, resulting in about 627,000 deaths from this disease. Most of the deaths occur in children under the age of 5 and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. There is an urgent need for new, well-tolerated, effective and affordable drugs. One reason for this is that the parasite that causes malaria is developing resistance to current medicines.

The DDU team has been working with MMV to identify potential new treatments for malaria.

This project began when one of the DDU collections of compounds was screened against the parasite that causes malaria. The process identified a start point for a drug discovery programme. This start point was then modified through subsequent cycles of design, synthesis and testing by expert teams of chemists and biologists, resulting in the discovery of this new antimalarial compound.

“Identifying a compound like this is no small feat,” said Dr Paul Willis, one of MMV’s Drug Discovery Project Directors. “It’s a great achievement, particularly given the exciting properties of the compound, which give it potential for use in the treatment, prevention and transmission-blocking of malaria.”




The Drug Discovery Unit
The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) is the only fully operational, fully integrated drug discovery group working across multiple diseases based within a UK university. The DDU tackles unmet medical need through small molecule drug discovery, bridging the gap between academic scientific research and commercial drug discovery and development. We draw on the best of both these worlds, employing over 70 highly skilled, experienced scientists from both academic and pharmaceutical industry backgrounds, with a professional, pioneering approach to their work. Our aim is to collaborate with partners in Dundee and beyond to identify lead compounds, potential drug targets and novel tools and approaches to develop improved treatments for a wide range of debilitating and deadly diseases.

Life Sciences at Dundee
With more than 900 scientists, research students and support staff from 61 countries and external funding in excess of £50million per annum, the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee is one of the largest and most productive Life Sciences research institutes in Europe. The College has an international reputation for its basic and translational research and was recognised in the 2011 Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Excellence with Impact Awards for 'Greatest Delivery of Impact'. The University of Dundee is the central hub for a multi-million pound biotechnology sector in the east of Scotland, which now accounts for 16% of the local economy.