Animal African Trypanosomosis (AAT), widely known in Africa as nagana, is a deadly scourge of livestock, killing an estimated 3 million cattle each year, as well as many sheep and goats. Spread in the bite of tsetse flies, and caused – like malaria – by a blood-dwelling protozoan parasite, the disease causes fever, severe anaemia and ultimately death if not treated. In infested areas, which cover around 10 million km2 across 40 African countries, from Senegal and Ethiopia in the north to South Africa in the south, the disease is responsible for up to 50% loss in milk and meat production in affected cattle.
Drugs to treat AAT are available, but their efficacy is limited, particularly as there is increasing parasite resistance to existing drugs, which were first introduced over 40 years ago. Another key concern is drug safety, in terms of residues in food-producing animals. To effectively protect and treat cattle against nagana requires the development of new drugs, which is at the heart of GALVmed’s approach. This work is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development.
Giving drug developers a head-start
Following consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including livestock farmers, local vets and staff in departments of agriculture, as well as commercial companies, GALVmed developed a series of Target Product Profiles for new drugs and novel control tools. Various features of the candidate product that were considered ideal (the ‘wants’) or minimal (the ‘musts’), such as efficacy against drug-resistant strains, were included. Developing new drugs for neglected tropical diseases is an expensive and high-risk process, especially when there is a necessary focus on consumer safety. Therefore, with a number of project partners, GALVmed has tested a range of novel drugs to identify those that are effective against T. congolense and T. vivax, the most important parasites species that cause AAT.
The search for new trypanocides has unearthed several potential candidates that fit the bill; their development has been de-risked to the point where they are near to handover to a commercial partner to develop further and market. The results on candidate molecules were shared with a number of potential commercial partners in Franschhoek, South Africa during a meeting in November 2015. Those who are interested in taking the potential candidates through full development have been asked to submit their Expressions of Interest to GALVmed by January 2016.
Any companies with experience in pharmaceutical development and an interest in products for Africa who have an interest in developing and marketing these products but who did not attend the meeting, can contact GALVmed’s project lead, Dr Rose Peter for a copy of the non-confidential information package and further discussions.