Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia

Start : June 2013 | Status : Complete

The scientists: This project is run by Dr Rosa Suarez and Dr Mariano Tilve. The project focuses on the discovery of new drugs for Chagas disease and is titled “Development of anti-T. cruzi drugs targeting fatty acid utilization” . Rosa and Mariano are experienced chemists from the Tarleton Research Group led by Prof. Rick L. Tarleton leads at the University of Georgia.

The sponsor: The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases (CTEGD) at the University of Georgia is a university-wide, interdisciplinary center established in 1998 to foster research, education and service related to tropical and emerging infectious diseases. Based on a strong foundation of parasitology, immunology, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics, CTEGD is made up of a wide range of research programs that focus largely on protozoan and metazoan parasites, their hosts and their vectors. Many of these programs have major international, on-site components for both research and training, where the faculty and trainees deal with these global infections and the populations that harbor them. CTEGD's investigators and their laboratories have made major contributions to our understanding of the diseases they study, such as malaria, Chagas disease, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, lymphatic filariasis, African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis -diseases of poverty that contribute enormously to global death and disability.

Foundation funding: The Foundation is providing £121,460 in support.

GSK’s contribution: GlaxoSmithKline is providing in-kind contributions (including facilities and expertise from supporting scientists for Medicinal Chemistry and also through access to GSK´s collection of compounds).

Project Description: There are no vaccines to prevent T. cruzi infection and the current available chemotherapies - benznidazole and nifurtimox - require long courses of treatment and exhibit variable efficacy.  Although this infection is generally well-controlled by host immune responses, with relatively low incidence of severe or life-threatening acute infections, the long-term persistence of T. cruzi results in >30% of infected subjects developing severe and eventually fatal heart disease later in life.  This project will focus on the discovery of more potent and parasite-selective compounds that attack the T. cruzi infection at the main point of its pathogenesis – its ability to persist for decades in muscle and adipose tissues.  The project will comprise screening using in vitro tests, a short-term in vivo screening assay, and (for highly selected compounds) a test of cure in mice. Selected drug candidates will be less toxic and more potent compared to those of current chemotherapies.