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R&D Collaboration to Discover Drugs for River Blindness

River blindness (America.gov)

(America.gov)

Anacor Pharmaceuticals in Palo Alto California, the University of California San Francisco’s Sandler Center and the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute (LFKRI) of the New York Blood Center established a research and development collaboration to discover new therapies to treat river blindness (onchocerciasis). River blindness is a parasitic disease and the second leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide, affecting 37 million people, particularly in Africa.

The collaboration will combine Anacor’s chemistry platform, and drug discovery and development capabilities, with the Sandler Center’s expertise in neglected disease biology and drug discovery and the LFKRI’s expertise in onchocerciasis. Their goal is to identify a potent drug candidate capable of killing adult worms. Current medications kill only microfilaria — the pre-larval stage of the worm — which means treating the same infected individual repeatedly over several years to outlast the lifetime of the adult worms and to stop transmission of the disease. A drug that kills adult worms would simplify ongoing elimination programs for river blindness and improve outcomes for patients and communities affected by the disease.

The collaboration also includes the BioComputing and Media Research Group at San Francisco State University which will develop algorithms and software to automate the screening process for lead identification.

Funding for the project is being provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through a grant to UCSF over two years for a total of $3.61 million, of which Anacor will receive $2.24 million.

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