THIRD COMSTECH-NTD Network Webinar: Identifying and validating new drug targets for Neglected Tropical Diseases

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Category: Capacity building, Connections, Network Events, Outreach

Webinar 3: 27th September 2021
“Identifying and validating new drug targets for Neglected Tropical Diseases”
Professor Patrick Steel: Durham University, UK

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.

  • Patrick co-organised one of our early career researcher training workshops, on medicinal chemistry, with Prof Guillermo Labadie, University of Rosario.  Read this blog for insights on our students’ experience of gaining these skills for drug discovery and beyond!
  • For insight into what it’s like as a member of Patrick’s lab team, read this interview with visiting PhD student Arielly Barretto, from the University of Rio de Janeiro!
Our Joint Webinar Programme
NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases) are a major health and economic burden in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states.  The control and elimination of NTDs require a scale-up and integration of global mass treatment programmes, along with new tools and technologies to tackle these diseases.  COMSTECH, in collaboration with A Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (known as the NTD Network,, is offering this virtual lecture series for researchers across the Islamic world and beyond.
Our programme draws upon expertise from both networks and offers opportunities to gain or enhance researcher knowledge, skills and connections, all of which help to grow our shared global capacity to tackle these rapidly growing NTDs.
  • The NTD Network, funded by UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), is a consortium of academic researchers from South America, Asia, and the UK, seeking new therapeutic solutions to leishmaniasis and Chagas disease
  • Both COMSTECH and the NTD Network aim to promote global scientific cooperation and build researcher capacity to find new and better therapeutic solutions for NTDs
These joint webinars are open to academics, scientists and the general public from all OIC member states.  The content is most relevant to scientists interested in NTDs research and specialising in Microbiology, Genetics, Genomics, Molecular Biology, Molecular Medicine, and Pathology.
For links to all recordings in this series, visit our COMSTECH-NTD Network page: