Sharing our expertise: The COMSTECH-NTD Network online joint virtual training programme

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Category: Capacity building, Events, Network Events, Outreach

The COMSTECH and the NTD NETWORK virtual lecture programme, launched June 2021, provides live webinars in skills needed for research into Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and draws upon expertise from both our Networks.
These talks are aimed at academics, professional scientists and interested members of the general public from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states and offer opportunities for specialists in Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) to gain or enhance their knowledge, skills, and academic connections.

This page lists the latest webinar and links to recordings of the previous talks, all hosted on the COMSTECH website.  Read about the background to our decision to launch this collaborative training programme, here.

 

Webinars

27th October 2021, 2:30pm Pakistan Standard Time; 10:30am UK (BST)
“Understanding the Immunology of Kala-Azar for Innovations in its Elimination and Control”

Professor Nahid Ali 

COMSTECH website page for this event: https://www.comstech.org/comstech-ntd-joint-lecture-4/

 

Prof. Dr. Nahid Ali
Fellow the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS),
J.C. Bose National Fellow, Pioneers of a  liposomal delivery system used for vaccines and therapies

 

ABSTRACT:
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) accounting for the world’s second-highest NTD-mediated mortality, with an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 new cases annually. India alone accounts for 50% of the global VL cases. Considering the growing drug-related toxicities, parasite resistance, HIV-coinfection, the development of an effective vaccine for leishmaniasis remains a global priority. A clear understanding of host immunology and the role of T cells in long[1]lasting memory generation is extremely essential to control hard-to-treat infections like VL. Although human VL is characterized by high Leishmania-specific antibodies, inadequate/ depressed CMI response and lack of protective cytokines are hallmarks of disease progression. Evident from our clinical studies, both CD4+ and CD8+ T cell-mediated IFN-gamma and IL-12 production with concomitant down-regulation of IL-10, TGF-β and IL-35 may eventually lead to a successful cure. Further, the life-long immunity against re-infection and relatively simple life[1]cycle of Leishmania parasites shows the feasibility of vaccine development against this disease. Poor immunogenicity and failure to generate lasting protection are the major obstacles of subunit vaccines against leishmaniases. I would address our continuous efforts to develop DNA and protein-based vaccine candidates to confer desired Th1-biased CD4+ and CD8+ T cell response in preclinical models. Formulations of the liposomal vaccines with other potent adjuvants can promote long-term immunological memory when delivered via human administrable routes. In order to minimize the drug-related toxicities, we have also developed liposomal drug formulations for single-shot therapy, providing dual protection by its antileishmanial and immunomodulatory functions at lower doses. Secondly, in order to alleviate the drawbacks of conventional invasive VL diagnostic methods, we have validated the non-invasive, rapid serum and urine-based ELISA and dipstick assays for the successful diagnosis of this disease.

 

27th September 2021, 2:30pm Pakistan Standard Time; 10:30am UK (BST)
Identifying and validating new drug targets for Neglected Tropical Diseases
Professor Patrick Steel
COMSTECH website link for this event: https://www.comstech.org/comstech-ntd-joint-lecture-3/ 
View the recording of this webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipLiEDHels0

ABSTRACT:
The protozoan kinetoplastid parasites Leishmania spp, Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi are responsible for potentially fatal diseases that affect over 22 million people worldwide, with an estimated 450 million people at risk. Current therapies are expensive and not widely accessible. In addition, drug toxicity and emerging resistance are major concerns and there is a major need for new tractable drug targets. In this presentation, I will describe examples of phenotypic and target-based approaches towards the discovery of new leishmanial drug targets and the identification of tractable chemical starting points for future drug discovery programmes. For the former, we have used a natural chalcone, with antileishmanial properties, as a starting point to develop and apply probes to identify the molecular target. In the second, target-based, strategy, we have identified the essential kinetoplastid sphingolipid synthase (SLS) as an attractive pharmaceutical target due to the divergence of function compared with the mammalian orthologous. We have developed screening assays to identify potential inhibitors against the Leishmania major enzyme. One assay identified the OTC antihistamine clemastine fumarate as a potential antileishmanial and I will discuss our efforts to validate and exploit this finding.

 

 

6th August 2021, 2:30pm Pakistan Standard Time; 10:30am UK (BST)
Protozoan ‘Drug’ Discovery: Old Drugs, New Targets and Mining for Novelty
Professor Paul Denny
Professor of Parasitology, Centre for Global Infectious Diseases, Department of Biological Sciences, Durham University, United Kingdom
COMSTECH website link for this event: https://www.comstech.org/comstech-ntd-network-protozoan/ 
Watch a recording of this webinar on YouTUbe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2_5VBHaIv4
ABSTRACT:
Parasitic diseases of humans and livestock remain a worldwide problem. Leishmaniasis impacts both health and economics and drains resources that could be used to promote development. Improving control of this disease would have profound benefits for human health, aid in wealth creation, and enhance quality of life. With no vaccine currently available for use in humans, chemotherapy remains the primary method of intervention, however current drugs are inadequate. New drugs are needed and whilst several promising candidates are in early phase clinical trials, gaining deeper insights into protozoan biology is crucial for supporting drug discovery efforts.
This presentation will focus on the characterisation of protozoan sphingolipid biosynthesis and the identification of novel antimicrobial targets within both the Kinetoplastidae and the Apicomplexa. Furthermore, Insights into the inhibitors of Leishmania sphingolipid biosynthesis and projects designed to elucidate new antileishmanial drug targets will be discussed.

 

25 June, 2021, 2:00pm Pakistan Standard Time; 10:00am UK (BST)
CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing of Leishmania and Drug Target Validation
Professor Jeremy Mottram
Professor of Pathogen Biology, York Biomedical Research Institute, University of York, United Kingdom
COMSTECH website link for this event: https://www.comstech.org/crispr-cas9/
View this webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73Iq25RC4PQ

ABSTRACT:
Parasitic disease of humans and livestock remains a worldwide problem. Leishmaniasis impacts both health and economics and drains resources that could be used to promote development. Improving control of this disease would have profound benefits for human health, aid in wealth creation, and enhance quality of life.  With no vaccine currently available for use in humans, chemotherapy remains the primary method of intervention, however current drugs are inadequate. New drugs are needed and whilst several promising candidates are in early phase clinical trials, gaining deeper insights into Leishmania biology is crucial for supporting drug discovery efforts.
Leishmania undergoes a tightly regulated differentiation process, known to be regulated by phosphorylation, transitioning between an extracellular promastigote to an intracellular amastigote. Differentiation requires extensive cellular remodelling to adapt to changing environments and this is enacted by peptidases, including the ubiquitination proteasome system (UPS).
In this presentation I will describe how we have used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing of Leishmania genes to investigate their function in life cycle progression and establishment of infection.  I will also describe how protein kinases and the UPS system are an important target class for potential new anti-leishmanial drugs.