Drug Development Global Program

Make handwashing a habit to prevent diarrhea… and grow taller, too

By Michael Arndt, Research Fellow, PATH, Hope Randall, Digital Communications Officer, PATH

This post originally appeared on the DefeatDD Blog

A child gets weighed with clinic staff looking on

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

You might know that handwashing makes a huge impact when it comes to preventing diarrhea: if everyone made handwashing a habit, diarrhea risk would drop by nearly half! But did you know that good handwashing and hygiene habits can also help children reach their full growth and cognitive potential?

Long-term low-level gut damage, called environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), is an issue that brings WASH, nutrition, vaccine communities together to underscore the importance of a multifaceted approach to defeat the vicious cycle of malnutrition and diarrheal disease and help children grow healthy and strong.

We talked with EED expert and PATH research fellow Michael Arndt to shed some light on these seemingly unlikely connections.

First, tell us a little about yourself. How did you become interested in gut health?

When I came to the University of Washington in 2010, I worked with Dr. Judd Walson, who was running a clinical trial of empiric deworming to delay HIV disease progression in Kenyan adults. I learned a great deal about the immunological effects of soil-transmitted helminths from my master’s thesis and was introduced to the concept of environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) while working on a project for the UW Department of Global Health Strategic Analysis, Research, & Training (START) Center. EED seemed to have such widespread impacts on child health, and there were many unanswered questions.

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Taking parasitic worms out of childhood

What it takes to nurture growing bodies—not tiny predators.

By Dr. Laurence Slutsker, Director of Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases programs, PATH

This post originally appeared on the PATH Blog

A young child stands at the front of a gathering of women and children

Soil-transmitted helminth infections are one of many neglected tropical diseases. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Growing children already have a big job to do: fight disease, grow long bones and strong muscles, and build the sharp minds they’ll need to be teachers, leaders, and possibly parents someday.

Yet worldwide, many little bodies are being held back by supporting parasitic worms.

Imagine a child with two plates to fill—and only enough food for one. Intestinal worms, or helminths, are small thieves that do big harm. They sap the blood and nutrients bodies need to stay strong. They leave children too tired to learn in school and play at home. And they open the door to other diseases.

At PATH, my team, like parents and teachers worldwide, know that’s unacceptable.

The good news? Helminths can be stopped. PATH is working with countries and partners worldwide to turn up the heat on these unwelcome guests: finding the best ways to deploy the worm-fighting tools we already have, advancing new tools, and tackling the root causes of infection so that children and communities can thrive.

The sanitation connection

Children filling buckets at a waterpump

Photo: PATH/Satvir Malhotra.

Soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), especially roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm, are a fact of life for billions of people—almost all of them in communities with very few resources. The World Health Organization estimates that STH infections affect 1.5 billon people—nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Globally, an estimated 880 million children are in need of treatment. Continue reading »

PATH in San Francisco, Lauren Hodsdon

Lauren in Old Delhi, India

Lauren in Old Delhi, India. Photo: Lauren Hodsdon.

PATH’s team in San Francisco works to advance global health innovations to improve the lives of women and children, primarily through our work in drug development. In this post, we learn more about Lauren Hodsdon, who interned with our philanthropic development team in San Francisco.

What did you work on during your internship? I worked on a research project to explore donor-advised funds and the opportunity for PATH to take advantage of their growth. My recommendations include best practices for approaching this type of donor, and part of my research weighed the question of whether PATH itself should become a sponsor organization for a donor-advised fund.

Do you have any hidden talents? I used to be a musical theater actress and worked for Disney Cruise Line as a performer for about eight months down in the Bahamas. I’m not supposed to say which princess or villain I played; you’ll have to guess.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Getting into the Masters in Public Health program at Boston University. Early on in elementary school, I was diagnosed with two learning disabilities, and I have made it a life goal to show others with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder that these disabilities are not defining or restrictive.

What was the last experience that made you a stronger person? When I got dengue fever while working in India. I’m not sure if it made me stronger, but it allowed me to experience the Indian health care system firsthand and helped me understand how persistent one must be to avoid mosquito-borne diseases.

What was the last book you read? Doing Good Better, by William MacAskill, on effective altruism.

What are your hobbies? I grew up sailing on the San Francisco Bay with my parents and two sisters. My parents now live in Santa Cruz, and when we’re all together, we’ll take a boat out to sail on Monterey Bay.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? The word “totally,” mostly used in a sarcastic sense, but I’m starting to worry it’s slipping into my legitimate verbiage.

Interested in interning with us? PATH values the ability to contribute to the development of future leaders in international global health. Our internships offer a variety of educational experiences and learning opportunities that embody our vision: a world where innovation ensures that health is within reach for everyone. Learn more about what opportunities exist across our global programs by visiting our careers website.

Bringing malaria elimination within reach through population-wide drug-based strategies

By Zachary Clemence, Malaria Learning Series Intern at PATH

This post originally appeared on the Making Malaria History blog.

In a rural village, a group of health workers meet with a crowd of men, women, and children.

A group of health workers and a crowd of men, women, and children sit together in Sinafala village, Zambia. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki

The global scale-up of vector control and improved case management has helped bring malaria cases and deaths to record lows since 2000. Endemic countries and donors are now working toward a world without malaria. Since 2010, PATH, through the Malaria Control and Elimination Partnership in Africa (MACEPA), has been investigating ways to accelerate this process by using drugs to clear parasites from their human hosts. If these approaches, known as population-wide drug-based strategies, are effective, feasible, and affordable, they may reduce malaria transmission in the short term to a level where it could be eliminated through strong surveillance that allows for tracking and treating each case.

This week, PATH released a brief on findings from this research as the first installment of their new Malaria Learning Series. The Learning Series is a suite of reports on current topics in malaria science that will provide practitioners, policymakers, and donors with the most recent evidence for decision-making. Topics will include emerging tools and strategies, health system and surveillance innovations, and planning for elimination.

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Scientists as advocates: Behind the bench, in front of the camera

By Deborah Kidd, Senior Communications Officer, PATH

This post originally appeared on the DefeatDD blog.

Photo: PATH.

Photo: PATH.

A scientist has a mandate: objective, data-driven fact-finding; research with an open mind and a solid protocol. But a scientist is more, too. Behind the standards of practice and quality control checks are life experiences, a full range of emotions, motivations, and passions. Scientific evidence is key to confirming unequivocally that diarrhea still sickens and kills too many children; chronic illness stunts growth and development; and vaccines can prevent severe disease. But in telling the story of diarrheal disease—as a complement to figures, findings, and data points—we wanted to explore that other side of science, to get at the human stories behind these stats. We asked a few researchers to reflect.

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PATH in San Francisco, Robert Choy

PATH’s team in San Francisco works to advance transformative global health innovations to improve lives of women and children, primarily through our work in drug development. In this post, we learn more about Robert Choy, associate director for research and preclinical development for PATH’s Drug Development program.

Photo: Robert Choy.

Photo: Robert Choy.

In my role, I collaborate with colleagues at pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions, and contract research organizations around the world to design, analyze, and interpret experiments, which advance the development of lifesaving treatments for enteric pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and soil-transmitted helminths.

Do you have any pets? No, but I have two young sons, Lucas, six, and Xavier, three, who act like wild animals. 

Do you have any hidden talents? I have practiced and taught the martial art of Kokikai Aikido for over 20 years, so I can show you how to effortlessly throw someone across the room.

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The best health advice from Mom

Photo: PATH.

Photo: PATH.

Moms around the world have one crucial thing in common—there’s nothing more important to them than the health and well-being of their families. Every day, moms focus their time, energy, and resources on keeping kids protected from sickness and harm and teaching them the lessons needed to become healthy adults. In times of illness, few are more dedicated or powerful than Mom. Our team in San Francisco is lucky to count some really great moms on our side; below are some of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the moms in our lives.


I remember my mom always saying “a healthy child has no bounds.” Little did I realize this would hold true well into my adulthood. –Neha A., Commercialization Officer, Diagnostics

The most important lesson that Mom taught me about health is that it’s more than merely the absence of disease, and the health of communities and populations deserves as much attention as the health of individuals. David Shoultz, Global Program Leader, Drug Development and Devices and Tools

My Mom continues to emphasize proper hand washing. She enjoys teaching my daughters to sing “Happy Birthday” two times while scrubbing front and back of hands with soap (but be sure not to let the water run—we are in a drought after all!). –Bridget B., Senior Manager, Outreach and Development

The most important thing my mom did for me is to get me vaccinated. Continually updating my vaccines has helped keep me, and those around me, healthy! –Sarina A., Program Coordinator, Drug Development

Photo: Yvonne Sidell.

Photo: Yvonne Sidell.

My Mom, at 82, always says, “The good [food] you put inside will truly show on the outside,” and I couldn’t agree more… Treat yourself to healthy eating so your life can be as long and enjoyable as hers! –Yvonne S., Regulatory Officer, Drug Development

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GHTC briefing highlights critical role of US government in advancing global health innovation in an increasingly globalized world

By Kat Kelley, Senior Program Assistant, Global Health Technologies Coalition

This post originally appeared on the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) Breakthroughs blog.

On Tuesday, GHTC launched our seventh annual policy report through a congressional briefing and panel discussion. The critical role played by the US government in catalyzing global health research and development (R&D) was a recurring theme, as panelists discussed the interconnectedness of global and American health and emphasized the need for new health tools to protect against outbreaks and continue progress.

As moderator, GHTC Director Erin Will Morton opened the briefing, reminding attendees that despite the landmark progress achieved in global health over the past fifteen years, the US government must continue to invest in health R&D to achieve the next milestones in global health. “Goal setting works. And R&D for new technologies is key to achieving global health goals,” said Morton.

Morton emphasized how past investments have had a remarkable impact, highlighting that the neglected disease pipeline has grown from 365 products under development in 2012 to 485 in 2015. However, as the GHTC policy report points out, US funding for global health R&D has stagnated or declined since 2009, and with the exception of the emergency funding for Ebola, 2014 funding levels were down 13 percent. “Our dollars are best spent when [US] agencies are working closely together,” said Morton, highlighting three goals the US government should embrace to advance innovation, as detailed in the report, including the importance of sustainable, long-term funding and innovative financing mechanisms; improved coordination of global health R&D efforts across US agencies; and streamlined and strengthened regulatory pathways.

Panelist Dr. Peter Hotez—president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and US science envoy—reiterated the need for long-term, sustainable funding for global health R&D, noting that the science to develop an Ebola vaccine was first published in 2013, but the technology sat there and was not advanced to product development because Ebola is a neglected disease and the technology offered little financial incentive to the private sector. He emphasized the role of US government investment in catalyzing health research, noting that when the US government “stepped in” and put up more than US$100 million to develop an Ebola vaccine, three leading pharmaceutical companies joined in.

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Drugs meant for the heart could save lives from diarrhea

By Robert Choy, Associate Director for Research and Preclinical Development, PATH

Woman holding an infant. Both are smiling.

Childhood diarrhea remains a leading cause of illness among young children. Sustained research and development of new treatments is needed to reduce mortality and morbidity. Photo: PATH/Doune Porter.

While substantial progress has been made in reducing childhood mortality in developing countries over the past two decades, UNICEF estimates that more than half a million children under five years old still die from diarrhea every year. For most people, this number is very difficult to fathom, so here is another way of describing the burden of diarrhea: Imagine three Boeing 747 airplanes filled with small children all crashed on January 1. Most likely, the world would be gripped by this tragedy. Now imagine three more planes filled with kids crashed on January 2. And again on January 3. How long would it be until people demanded action?

For more than 10 years, a major focus of our Drug Development program has been working to develop safe, affordable, and effective treatments for enteric and diarrheal diseases. One area of investigation has been a class of drugs that inhibit an enzyme called neprilysin, or NEP, which helps to regulate intestinal function. One drug in this class called racecadotril has been approved in France and is also used in several low- and middle-income countries to treat diarrhea, but it has never been widely adopted because of several shortcomings, including the need to take it at least three times per day and the fact that its performance in clinical trials has been mixed.

Partners focus on repurposing drug candidates meant for heart disease

In collaboration with the Center for World Health and Medicine (CWHM) at Saint Louis University, PATH sought to identify another NEP inhibitor that might be more effective than racecadotril. Fortunately for PATH, a number of pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi, and Novartis have concurrently developed NEP inhibitors, but for reasons completely unrelated to diarrhea. In addition to its role in regulating intestinal function, neprilysin was also found to be involved in other biological processes, including the cardiovascular system. More than a dozen NEP inhibitors were tested in clinical trials for heart disease in the 1990s and early 2000s, but then this class of drugs was largely abandoned due to lack of efficacy.

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Life is impossible without water

By Erika Amaya, Communications Associate, PATH

On World Water Day, I see blue in an umbrella approach that can protect and save lives around the world.

Photo: PATH/Erika Amaya.

On World Water Day, I see blue in an umbrella: as in, an umbrella approach to protect and save lives.

In the last few years, the persistent drought in California has really driven home for me the vitality of clean, fresh water for the health and well-being of people everywhere. From society-level needs like sanitation and irrigation for agriculture, to individual needs like staying hydrated and handwashing, life is impossible without water.

Thanks to El Niño, we recently had a downpour in San Francisco, which led me to dust off a white and blue umbrella that hasn’t seen much action in recent years. While my US-based colleagues in Seattle and DC are used to all kinds of weather, the rain was a bit novel for me and my sidekick Bogie. (In case you missed it, Bogie has been featured on DefeatDD before—in the 2016 #TravelingPoo calendar!)

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