In 2019, malaria caused an estimated 229 million clinical episodes and 409,000 deaths. As development of resistance to existing drugs is one of the greatest threats to malaria control, it is critical that new potential therapeutics be developed. Dr. Tomoyoshi Nozaki, Professor at the Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, is working toward the discovery and development of novel potential treatments for malaria. To support Dr. Nozaki’s drug discovery research, Pfizer Inc. has agreed to provide certain compounds that may inhibit selected targets.
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.
Dr. Audrey Odom John (Washington University in St. Louis) and Dr. Cynthia Dowd (The George Washington University) identified an antimalarial drug candidate with a novel, parasite-specific target. The investigators have explored various solutions to improve the compound’s pharmacokinetic properties, including administration in a patch formulation. BVGH coordinated a call between Dr. Odom John, Dr. Dowd, and a Pfizer scientist with expertise in transdermal drug delivery to help assess the feasibility of this approach for the compound.
A Pfizer scientist with expertise in transdermal drug delivery shared advice on the feasibility of a transdermal delivery for the investigators’ antimalarial drug candidate and helped suggest next steps for development.
Dr. Gros studied cerebral malaria (CM). CM is the most severe neurological complication of a Plasmodium falciparum infection, resulting in seizures, coma, and death. CM is characterized by severe inflammation in the brain, and it is this inflammation that makes the disease invariably lethal. Anti-inflammatory compounds may help to prevent this inflammation-associated brain damage. Janus kinase 3 (JAK-3) is a key enzyme in an important inflammation-signaling pathway, and thus inhibiting JAK-3 could inhibit cerebral inflammation. BVGH connected Dr. Gros with Pfizer, which shared a JAK-3 inhibitor with suitable characteristics for testing in Dr. Gros’ CM animal model.
Dr. Keiser, Head of the Helminth Drug Development Unit at Swiss TPH, maintains in vitro and in vivo assays for a wide range of helminth life cycles. BVGH reviewed a publication detailing the effect of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonists on rat hookworm, and contacted Dr. Keiser to gauge her interested in screening related compounds. Dr. Keiser expressed interest, and Pfizer provided seven nAChR agonists that Dr. Keiser screened in her assays against Necator americanus, Ancylostoma ceylanicum, and Heligmosomoides polygyrus.
60P Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in drug development for tropical diseases, was interested in repurposing modipafant for treating dengue fever. Modipafant was under development by Pfizer, but was discontinued. Pfizer disclosed modipafant’s Investigator’s Brochure to 60P under confidentiality. An Investigator's Brochure is a compilation of the clinical and nonclinical data on the investigational product(s) that is relevant to the study of the investigational product(s) in human subjects. The data helped 60P design its dengue fever clinical trial, saving both time and money.
Dr. Kaushansky was interested in accessing a class of compounds targeting a specific host protein, as she had previously shown that activating this protein might be an effective therapeutic strategy against liver-stage malaria. BVGH connected Dr. Kaushansky with Pfizer, who provided a novel activator compound to support her antimalarial drug discovery efforts.