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Compounds Made Available for Pandemic Drug Discovery

Pandemic Response Box

Pandemic Response Box (Medicines for Malaria Venture)

30 Jan. 2019. Two international health organizations are making 400 compounds freely available to researchers to spur development of new drugs for pandemic infectious diseases. The compounds are compiled and packaged into a single collection, provided by the groups Medicines for Malaria Venture or MMV, and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, or DNDI.

The two organizations are seeking to break down barriers for researchers to discover new vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases that spread beyond localized outbreaks and affect individuals in a number of countries, becoming international public health emergencies. Outbreaks of Zika and Ebola in the past few years are better-known examples of these pandemic diseases. The problem is made more urgent and difficult by the emergence of drug-resistant pathogens. A report by a commission in the U.K. estimates the number of deaths worldwide from antibiotic-resistant microbes will rise to 10 million a year by 2050.

In response to this challenge, MMV and DNDI assembled a collection of compounds for testing new drug candidates called the Pandemic Response Box. The package — the compounds are shipped in protected vials in a single package — contains 400 antimicrobial compounds selected by researchers from academic and industrial labs, which the organizations say represent a wide range of chemical structures and mechanisms of action. About half of the compounds are derived from bacteria, while 38 percent are from viral sources and the remainder are fungal compounds.

In exchange for the Pandemic Response Box, researchers are asked to share their results in an open-access journal within 2 years of generating their data. An alternative to publication is sharing the findings in the ChEMBL database, a curated chemical database of bioactive molecules with drug-like properties maintained by European Bioinformatics Institute, part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

“Open innovation is one of the keys to unlocking new potential for drug discovery and tapping into existing expertise to kickstart new research efforts,” says Timothy Wells, chief scientist at MMV, in a joint statement. “The hope is that these efforts will contribute to the discovery and development of next generation therapies to manage a future pandemic as well as existing threats such as the Zika virus and Ebola.”

Graeme Bilbe, research and development director at DNDI adds, “A deeper understanding of disease pathogenesis as well as research into new, effective therapies could prevent the scenario of drug-resistant pathogens emerging and spreading. The goal is to help shorten the time between the emergence of a new pandemic and the availability of new drugs to treat it. History has repeatedly shown that saving time, saves lives.”

MMV and DNDI, both based in Geneva, Switzerland, collaborate on a number of open-science programs. In February 2018, Science & Enterprise reported on a more focused project between the 2 organizations and researchers in Netherlands and Australia, an online collaboration with an open process to discover new drug compounds to treat mycetoma, a slow-progressing and largely neglected inflammatory fungal disease occurring mainly in developing regions.

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