May 17, 2020

£10m donated to fight neglected tropical diseases

neglected tropical diseases
Wellcome Trust
3 min
£10  million has been donated to figth NTDs
A sum of £10 million has been donated to the University of Dundee in Scotland, UK, to enable it to carry out research into a number of neglected...

A sum of £10 million has been donated to the University of Dundee in Scotland, UK, to enable it to carry out research into a number of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

The money has been contributed by the Wellcome Trust research institute and the study will also be supported by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Dundee University is aiming to find appropriate drug treatments for some of the world’s most neglected parasitic diseases, including African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

Within five years it is hoped at least one treatment for one of the diseases will have been developed.

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The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee has already made progress over the last few years in working towards a treatment for African sleeping sickness.

It has also received promising results from its attempts to identify an appropriate treatment for leishmaniasis.

 “Currently we have a portfolio of discovery projects in various stages of development in African sleeping sickness and visceral leishmaniasis,” explained Professor Mike Ferguson, from the University of Dundee.

“We have several types of compounds with promising activity in animal models.

“The next step is to chemically modify these molecules to find the optimal balance of drug-like properties for clinical trials.”

The DDU will now work with GSK’s Kinetoplastids Discovery Performance Unit (DPU) at the company's Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus in Spain to further develop these and other affordable treatments.

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the DDU, commented: “We are very pleased to have GSK as a valued partner in the project.

“The support from the Wellcome Trust has enabled us to create a powerful team by combining DDU's and GSK's considerable expertise and infrastructure, to accelerate progress towards discovering new drugs for these terrible diseases.

“We have already forged a very productive partnership and look forward to an exciting and successful future.”

Meanwhile, Professor Alan Fairlamb shared his views on why it is so important to develop treatments for neglected tropical diseases.

“These parasitic diseases, which afflict millions of people worldwide, are collectively responsible for about 150,000 deaths every year in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” he said.

“The drugs currently used to treat patients are often difficult to administer, have toxic side-effects and are not always effective due to drug resistance.

“Better, safer drugs are needed that are cheap and easy to administer, because most of these patients are living in poverty without access to hospitals or clinics.”  

The £10 million donation is in addition to a separate grant Fairlamb received from the Wellcome Trust to carry out investigations into Chagas disease.

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Jun 15, 2021

 NHS trials test that predicts sepsis 3 days in advance 

2 min
Queen Alexandra Hospital is trialling a new sepsis test by Presymptom Health that uses machine learning to detect the onset of the disease

A new test that can predict sepsis before the patient develops symptoms is being trialled at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the south of England. 

Clinicians at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital are leading medical trials of the blood test, which they hope will help them save thousands of lives a year. 

The test is being developed by government spin-out company Presymptom Health, but the research began over 10 years ago at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). This included a study of 4,385 patients and more than 70,000 samples, the largest study of its kind at the time. 

From the samples taken, a clinical biobank and database were generated and then mined using machine learning to identify biomarker signatures that could predict the onset of sepsis. The researchers found they were able to provide an early warning of sepsis up to three days ahead of illness with an accuracy of up to 90%.

Unlike most other tests, Presymptom Health identifies the patient’s response to the disease as opposed to detecting the pathogen. This is an important differentiator, as sepsis occurs as a result of the patient's immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury, which can then cause life-threatening organ dysfunction. 

Worldwide, an estimated 49 million people a year contract sepsis, while in the UK almost two million patients admitted to hospital each year are thought to be at risk of developing the condition. If Presymptom's test is effective, it could save billions of pounds globally and improve clinical outcomes for millions of sepsis patients.

The initial trials at Queen Alexandra Hospital will last 12 months, with two other sites planned to go live this summer. Up to 600 patients admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections will be given the option to participate in the trial. The data collected will be independently assessed and used to refine and validate the test, which could be available for broader NHS use within two years. 

If successful, this test could also identify sepsis arising from other infections before symptoms appear, which could potentially include future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Dr Roman Lukaszewski, the lead Dstl scientist behind the innovation, said: “It is incredible to see this test, which we had originally begun to develop to help service personnel survive injury and infection on the front line, is now being used for the wider UK population, including those fighting COVID-19.”

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