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Dr. Edmund Ekuadzi, a former Novartis Next Generation Scientist (NGS) Program Fellow at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, has identified and purified a series of natural product extracts from Ghanaian plants for drug development purposes. Dr. Ekuadzi has shared a set of extracts with Dr. Conor Caffrey at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to screen for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) and schistosomiasis drug discovery.
Leishmaniasis, malaria, and human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) are among the parasitic infectious diseases that disproportionately exact a heavy toll on people living in low- and middle-income countries. Prof. Fabrice Boyom, Head of the Antimicrobial & Biocontrol Agents Unit at University of Yaoundé I, is working toward the discovery and development of novel drugs for all three diseases by targeting the parasites’ critical metabolic pathways. To support Prof. Boyom’s drug discovery research, Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide certain potassium channel blockers.
Praziquantel has been the drug of choice for the treatment of schistosomiasis for over 40 years. However, it is effective only against adult worms, and the reliance on a single drug increases the risk that resistance will develop. New antischistosomals targeting multiple stages of the worms’ life cycle are needed. Dr. Conor Caffrey, Professor at the Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases (CDIPD) and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California, San Diego, will investigate natural product derivatives synthesized by Dr. Peter Cheuka, Lecturer and Researcher in Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery at University of Zambia. The compounds will be tested against various developmental stages of Schistosoma mansoni at CDIPD to determine bioactivity and identify interesting scaffolds for further development.