We are “A Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases” (known as the NTD Network). We comprise an international consortium of academic researchers from South America, Asia and the UK, seeking new therapeutic solutions to leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, and funded by UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
In this, the initial phase of our project (2018-2021) we are:
1. Delivering a multidisciplinary, collaborative research initiative to identify new in-parasite drug targets for leishmaniasis and Chagas disease
2. Training Ph.D. students and early career researchers around the world with the vital and specialised skills needed for this work
3. Building capacity worldwide through knowledge transfer across the Network and assisting with enhancing research infrastructure at our partner institutions in developing countries
The World Health Organization’s current list of 20 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) impacts the lives of over 1 billion of the world’s most deprived people; a greater burden than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV combined. Of these, leishmaniasis and Chagas disease, caused by parasites and spread by biting insects, are amongst the most severely neglected, affecting the “poorest of the poor” with cases currently increasing and spreading to new areas. Forms of these diseases are lethal if untreated. Unfortunately, our existing drugs (non-specific chemotherapeutics) are costly, involve lengthy treatments with debilitating toxic side effects, and are themselves lethal for many patients.
Recognising that Chagas disease and leishmaniasis require urgent attention, our Network’s primary aim is to find routes to therapeutic solutions that target the parasites without harming patients. Ensuring a new drug affects only the infection and not the patient requires target validation – one of the most challenging stages in the search for new drugs, and typically with high rates of failure. Our focus at this stage is on identifying and validating in-parasite biomolecules as targets. This will enable us to screen chemical libraries for compounds affecting these targets, and so providing faster, more effective and more efficient routes to subsequent drug development.