Drug Development Global Program

Drug development news digest—August 2014

“Positive deviants” in the fight against AIDS, vaccines for mosquitoes, and the man responsible for saving 50 million lives from dehydration due to deadly diarrhea—these are just a few of the stories featured in our round-up of news from August. Dive into the selection below to get caught up on some of the trending headlines in malaria, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal disease, and more.

It’s no secret that breastfeeding provides infants with the best start in life, but did you know it also provides important health and economic benefits for everyone else? In fact, it’s tied to every one of the Millennium Development Goals. The Guardian

The man behind oral rehydration therapy—heralded as “potentially the most important medical advance” of the twentieth century—describes how this radically simple solution came to be. BBC

Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Malawi—three surprising “positive deviants” in the global fight against AIDS. How are they doing it and what can we learn? The New York Times

An important milestone for malaria elimination—first malaria treatments containing semisynthetic artemisinin are now shipping to malaria-endemic countries. The Guardian

At the time of its introduction, oral rehydration solution was a breakthrough in saving lives from diarrhea, but superstition, distrust, and a significant “know-do” gap prevented it from reaching widespread adoption for years. The New York Times

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A decade of teamwork and collaboration

Ten years ago, we launched an ambitious plan to capitalize on a synthetic biology innovation to create a non-botanical source of artemisinin for antimalarial drugs. This summer, the first artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) containing semisynthetic artemisinin (ssART) are hitting the market. Take a look back at a few moments from this journey that spanned multiple sectors, countries, cultures, and time zones!

At the OneWorld Health office in San Francisco, CA, during the early days of the projectquick team photo before getting back to work.

Team members pose for a photo gathered around a table. Champagne flutes in the foreground.

Photo: PATH Drug Solutions.

One of several trips to France—getting to know our colleagues and project partners over a meal and a stroll (2008).

08.2France Sept08 014

Photo: PATH Drug Solutions.

Colleagues on the Artemisinin Project stand in front of an architectural arch

Photo: PATH Drug Solutions.

Touring a new Sanofi plant in Garessio, Italy in 2009.

Project team dressed in white robes and hats visiting the Sanofi factory.

Photo: Sanofi.

2009: Preparing for a demonstration.

Photo: Sanofi.

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A new era for malaria treatment

Ten years ago, a group of experts in research, pharmaceutical product development, and public health formed a partnership to stabilize the artemisinin supply chain. Now, that work is coming to fruition. Dr. David Kaslow, PATH’s vice president of product development, talks about the Artemisinin Project, our success, and what’s next.

Man holding a box of ASAQ.

Photo: Sanofi.

A new era for malaria treatment

This month, after nearly ten years of effort, the first batch of malaria drugs manufactured with a new, semisynthetic form of the key ingredient, artemisinin, will start reaching endemic countries in Africa.

The shipment—more than 1.7 million treatments of Sanofi’s Artesunate Amodiaquine Winthrop® (ASAQ)—is the first of its kind. It marks a new era of antimalarial drugs manufactured using semisynthetic artemisinin (ssART) instead of historically-used botanical material. It also offers a promise of expanded access to treatment for millions sickened by malaria every year—many of which are young children in sub-Saharan African countries.

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Drug development news digest—July 2014

Think summer means a slow news cycle? No way! Big news emerged from the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, as well as important developments for people affected by the scourges of malaria and diarrheal disease. Check out the stories that made headlines in July!

150 years after Mohandas Gandhi stated that good sanitation was more important than independence, India seeks to end open defecation among its 600 million citizens who lack access to toilets. The Economist

“Surprise findings” of Lancet study indicate the global burden of HIV is much lower than previously estimated; unfortunately, deaths from malaria are taking a bigger toll. The Guardian

Where do mosquitos go during the dry season? That’s the “perplexing mystery” surrounding malaria control in Mali, and one that man’s best friend may be able to answer. Nature

Didn’t make it to Melbourne for this year’s AIDS Conference? Check out the documents that “defined the meeting” of the world’s foremost HIV/AIDS researchers. AIDS MAP

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Drug development news digest—June 2014

While global health headlines didn’t garner nearly as much attention as the World Cup this past month, there was still plenty to get excited about. From a new initiative to expand treatment options for children with HIV to the power of “disruptive innovation” and the “race against time” to defeat malaria—below is a selection of stories sure to get you worked up.

Exciting news from our program as we recently announced we’re expanding the search for new drugs to treat deadly diarrhea in partnership with our colleagues at Saint Louis University’s Center for World Health and Medicine. Bioresearch Online

A new initiative, at once “ambitious and overdue,” seeks to close the gap in treating pediatric HIV by pooling the resources of industry, civil society, and government. Science Speaks

Pharmaceutical companies attempt to tackle the lack of treatments for children with HIV by producing more child-appropriate formulations and sharing intellectual property. The Washington Post

An innovative, integrated approach to deadly diarrhea could mean a brighter future for children in the poorest, most rural regions of Africa. The Guardian

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Shared goals to accelerate drug discovery

Guest post was contributed by Marvin Meyers, PhD, who directs medicinal chemistry for the Center for World Health and Medicine (CWHM) at Saint Louis University.

Interventions for diarrheal disease include vaccines, ORS, and safe, new, effective drugs

A few months ago, this blog provided an overview of the drug discovery and development process. What is very clear is that, while drug discovery is a very difficult and risky business, the potential benefit for millions of people worldwide makes it all worthwhile. Large pharmaceutical companies have significant resources to help absorb the failures that are inevitable in the drug discovery business. As nonprofit groups working to discover new drugs for diseases in developing countries, we need to do everything in our power to minimize the risk for failure and improve the likelihood for success. This requires partnering between groups that have complementary expertise and resources.

Moving beyond the lab bench

CWHM at Saint Louis University is a relatively new player in the rapidly expanding “academic drug discovery center” phenomenon. Formed in 2010, CWHM is made up of a group of drug discovery scientists with more than 200 years of collective experience in the pharmaceutical industry. This group is essentially a complete drug discovery project team embedded in an academic environment, with expertise in translation of basic science into new drug candidates for clinical trials.

This model of a drug discovery team in an academic environment takes advantage of CWHM’s expertise in drug discovery—that is, the teamwork and scientific proficiency needed to successfully identify a potential new drug. However, to be truly successful, CWHM needed collaborators that have expertise in 1) the broad spectrum of diseases that directly affect people in low-resource settings and 2) the design and execution of clinical trials. This is why partnering with PATH through its Drug Development program is critical to the successful identification of a new antidiarrheal drug. PATH has the expertise in both diarrheal diseases and implementation of clinical trials for potential new antidiarrheal drugs.

Targeting diarrheal disease

In 2010, CWHM initiated a project that sought to reposition high-quality inhibitors of neutral endopeptidase (NEP) that had previously failed to reduce blood pressure in clinical trials, yet were demonstrated to be safe for humans. We established preclinical models of diarrhea and began investigating NEP inhibitors for antidiarrheal effect in those models.

Early on, we partnered with PATH’s Drug Development program to advance this project. Our collaboration was instrumental in guiding our efforts at a very early stage, and helped to focus our efforts in a manner that kept the need for a clinically relevant agent at the forefront of our thoughts. After working together for a little over two years, we have now identified three high-quality clinical compounds that have demonstrated antidiarrheal effects in preclinical models.

Maximizing impact

What has contributed to our success is teamwork. We discuss results and strategy monthly with our drug development colleagues at PATH. This ensures that our efforts are aligned with the common goal: to identify an excellent treatment for acute secretory diarrhea that will be widely available and convenient for those who need it so that it becomes a drug that will be used to save lives.

The best way to prevent needless deaths from diarrhea in developing countries is through a productive and synergistic team effort that combines the strengths of each partner. As we continue our partnership with PATH, we are eager to see what other successes we can achieve together.

Photos: PATH, except for bottom right, Jonathan Torgovnik©.

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Drug development news digest—May 2014

Some common themes emerge in our round-up of global health news from the month of May. For instance, two stories expose the virulent nature of cholera devastating two different regions of the world. In another two stories, India takes center stage, as the health inequities between urban and rural, rich and poor are explored. See what other common threads emerge in the selection of stories below.

For over a century, no cases of cholera were reported in Haiti. By 2014, the rate of infection represented nearly one in every 15 people in the country, with over 8,500 Haitians killed. The stark reality of the introduction and rapid spread of the disease is explored. Foreign Affairs

Despite declaring itself malaria-free 50 years ago, Venezuela is seeing the disease re-emerge for the first time in urban areas, a development that could take years to reverse. The Guardian

The divide between rich, poor, urban, and rural in India reveals deep inequalities in access to quality healthcare and a stark difference in the newborn mortality rate. The New York Times

A “sexy” new ad from Save the Children is drumming up controversy around diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poor, including diarrhea and malaria. NPR

“Toilets before temples”! Taking the cue from a pledge made by India’s newly-elected prime minister to prioritize economic development and address the country’s perpetual sanitation crisis, the United Nations launches a global campaign to improve access to toilets for the 2.5 billion people without basic sanitation. Inter Press Service

The Food and Drug Administration is incentivizing drug development for neglected diseases with a “golden ticket” that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to drug companies.  NPR

The similarities between a newly recommended therapy for HIV prevention and the Pill for birth control go beyond taking a once-daily dose of medication, especially in terms of stigma. The New York Times

In case you missed it, nine important takeaways from the recent World Health Assembly, including the first-ever global action plan on newborn health and a resolution intended to boost financing for health research and development. Devex

Over a hundred years ago, Rudyard Kipling reported the devastating effects of cholera on the British infantry in India in “Cholera Camp.” Today, devastation and “desperate love” persist. Pacific Standard

Changing the reality of diarrheal disease

Our new video “Defeat diarrheal disease? Together, we’ve got it covered” shows how an integrated approach to tackling diarrheal disease can save thousands of children’s lives each year. In this guest post, Eugenio de Hostos, who directs our research and preclinical development work for antidiarrheal drugs, comments on some of the video’s themes and offers his insight on what it will take to defeat diarrhea.

The uneasy reality

When you walk into a diarrheal disease health clinic in a place like Bangladesh, the reality of the disease strikes you immediately. It’s the rows of bright orange bed covers drying in the sun, long lines of women with children waiting to be seen, and the patients—most of them too young and vulnerable to be already fighting for their lives.

A mother administering ORS to her child

Photo: Jonathan Torgovnik©.

The onslaught of diarrhea is sudden and loss of fluids is copious. Mere inconvenience quickly turns to a daily struggle for life as you fight off dehydration that diarrhea causes. A child is rushed to a hospital where lifesaving oral rehydration solution (ORS) is administered, usually by a mother or a care provider. Spoon by spoon, lost fluids are slowly restored, though weakness can persist for several weeks, and repeated bouts of diarrhea are common.

The reality is that despite rapid progress in reducing child deaths from diarrhea over the last decade—a decrease by more than 50 percent, from almost 1.3 million in 2000 to approximately 600,000 in 2012—there is a lot more to be done. And as long as diarrhea continues to take the lives of more than 1,600 children every day before they can grow to see their fifth birthday, there is no time we can allow ourselves to waste.

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ICYMI: #DefeatMalaria blog series

To coincide with World Malaria Day, we hosted a #DefeatMalaria blog series last month that highlights the work being done around the world to bring an end to this deadly, yet preventable and treatable, disease. Below is a round-up of stories from organizations working on behalf of millions to defeat malaria once and for all.

Displays of bednets in a Kenyan grocery store.

Photo: PATH/Hope Randall.

Making malaria history for everyone, everywhere

As a first-time traveler to Africa, Hope Randall wasn’t sure what to expect. Here, she shares her experience with the ever-present threat of malaria.

I believe in Tanzania!
By Troy M., PATH MalariaCare project

In the last ten years, Tanzania has halved the prevalence of malaria among young children! Troy Martin discusses what’s worked and what can be improved as Tanzania continues to roll back malaria.

Investing in the future and defeating malaria in the Asia Pacific
By Brittany Z., Malaria Elimination Initiative, UCSF

Brittany Zelman highlights successes and challenges in the the last mile toward malaria elimination for Bhutan, Republic of Korea, and Sri Lanka, and explains why surveillance of new cases will be key.

A patient in a hospital bed is attended by two health workers

Photo: Friends Africa.

How governments can help in the fight against vector-borne disease
By Akudo I., Friends Africa

Akudo Ikemba discusses local health advocacy efforts to fight malaria and the role that national governments (and Nollywood stars!) can play against vector-borne diseases.


Our goal: defeat malaria forever
By Kent C. and Bindiya P., PATH

Kent Campbell and Bindiya Patel discuss PATH’s multipronged approach against malaria and the reasons why the strategy doesn’t end at controlling the spread of the disease. 

Half of a Yellow Sun

Photo: Malaria No More UK.

World Malaria Day: Malaria No More UK seeking your ideas
By James W., Malaria No More UK

An insider’s perspective from James Whiting on the very busy life of a malaria advocate during the month of April.

World Malaria Day 2014: The overlooked side of the global malaria fight
By Karen G., American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Karen Goraleski celebrates champions in the fight against malaria and offers their personal perspectives on big challenges and potential game changers in malaria research and development.

Tackling malaria overdiagnosis through interactive training
By Débora M., ACT Consortium

The results of a recent study showed that interactive training programmes for health workers could reduce overdiagnosis of malaria by half and, as Debora Miranda points out, help prevent valuable drugs from being wasted.

Learning to bite back
By Juliane C., Malaria MISSION

Taking lessons from the Global Malaria Eradication Plan of the 1960s, Juliana Chaccour describes a potential malaria control tool that could counter resistance and behavioral plasticity of vectors.

"Count us in to make malaria elimination a reality in Senegal." –In Tiabakh, Senegal, message from the village leader's grandchildren.

Photo: Speak Up Africa.

Zero Malaria! Count Me In!
By Yacine D., Speak Up Africa

Senegal’s progress toward reducing malaria mortality has been impressive, yet they aren’t stopping there. Yacine Djibo introduces a mass communication campaign intended to mobilize key malaria champions and empower leaders to commit to a malaria-free Senegal.

The #DefeatMalaria blog series was published between April 16-May 2, 2014. 

Zero Malaria! Count Me In!

Guest contributor Yacine Djibo is president of Speak Up Africa.

Senegal calls upon its population to cross the finish line and eliminate malaria.

April 25, 2014—On World Malaria Day, Senegal marked the success of decades of combined efforts from individuals and the public and private sectors in the fight against one of the deadliest, yet most preventable and treatable diseases still affecting millions each year, malaria. In the past ten years, Senegal has reduced malaria mortality rates by 62 percent and saved almost 30,000 children’s lives.

While the fight continues, a movement for new dedication is beginning in Senegal. Zero Malaria! Count me in! (“Zéro Palu! Je m’engage!” in French) is a new, innovative campaign designed to give ownership in the fight against malaria to every Senegalese citizen. This inclusive mass communication campaign aims to launch a national movement in favor of malaria elimination in Senegal. The campaign will help mobilize key champions and identify and empower leaders to help create and grow malaria-free zones, while building commitment to a malaria-free Senegal.

Zero palu

Image: Speak Up Africa.

Launched at the second consecutive Jambars (Champions) event in Senegal, just days before World Malaria Day, well over 300 members of the private and public sectors, including The Honorable Awa Marie-Coll Seck, Senegal’s Minister of Health, Mme. Anta Sarr Diacko, the Minister of Women, and leaders from the community, joined together to stand side by side to support the fight for a malaria-free Senegal. Each supporter enthusiastically wore their “Zéro Palu! Je m’engage!” pin, as they stood alongside leaders who echoed the same promise. Also featured at the event was the traveling Zero Malaria! Count Me In! photo exhibition, featuring everyday malaria champions from the community and leaders from all sectors.

It is country ownership of malaria as a health priority that will buttress our win in the malaria fight. “We engage today more than yesterday the reinforcement of Senegalese efforts to put at the disposition of each Senegalese man and woman, the effective ways of prevention and treatment against malaria,” said TH Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Minister of Health and Social Welfare.

How Senegal’s National Malaria Control Program rallied all partners around malaria elimination.

Each individual’s promise to invest in the health and safety of themselves and their families counts. In addition, all must contribute to the mobilization of the domestic resources that can support the malaria effort in the long run and push Senegal to become malaria-free.

Zero Malaria! Count Me In! aims to create a national policy environment that enables the introduction of new approaches and strategies for malaria parasite elimination as a part of the national strategy. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to use evidence generated in Senegal to inform national policy and practice for malaria parasite elimination and to mobilize resources. It will engage citizens via blogs, statements, photos, testimonials, m-health related programs, and key multi-sectoral partnerships to bring home the fact that we are at a critical moment in time where all needs to be invested in order not to lose all the progress we have made over the last decade.

"Count us in to make malaria elimination a reality in Senegal." –In Tiabakh, Senegal, message from the village leader's grandchildren.

“Count us in to make malaria elimination a reality in Senegal.” –In Tiabakh, Senegal, a message from the village leader’s grandchildren. Photo: Geneviève Sauvalle.

About Speak Up Africa

Headquartered in Dakar, Senegal, Speak Up Africa is a creative health communications and advocacy organization dedicated to catalyzing African leadership, enabling policy change, securing resources and inspiring individual action for the most pressing issue affecting Africa’s future: child health.

This is a part of the #DefeatMalaria blog series published between April 16–May 2, 2014.