Grand Challenges

A·WOL - Eisai
Researchers will aim to identify and develop new drug candidates that efficiently kill the intracellular bacteria Wolbachia. Funded by GHIT, the most promising drug candidates will proceed through advanced rounds of chemical modification and testing to identify lead candidate compounds that have good safety and efficacy profiles ready to move into pre-clinical testing.
Funder: GHIT

Turning the worm against its symbiont
Dr Denis Voronin 
This project will identify new drugs for treating filariasis by developing a screening strategy based on the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and by searching for compounds that can induce an intracellular degradation mechanism known as autophagy to activate the parasite’s immune system and thereby eliminate the resident Wolbachia. This alternative approach should dramatically reduce the time needed to treat lymphatic filariasis compared to current antibiotic-based treatments, which directly target Wolbachia, require long-term administration, and can lead to the development of resistance.

A Small Animal Model Of Onchocerciasis
Dr Joe Turner 
Treatment options for filarial infections are currently limited and lack affectivity, thus, models of filarial worm infections are invaluable both as a source of worms from all life cycle stages for drug screening, and for preclinical testing of candidate drugs. Dr Joseph Turner and his research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will manipulate immune responses mediating resistance to experimental infection to achieve this.

A cell-based screen for discovery of a macrofilaricide
Dr Kelly Johnston
Dr Kelly Johnston and her research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will develop a parasitic filarial nematode worm cell line that can proliferate continuously in vitro to enable high-throughput screening of candidate anti-filarial drugs. Current drug screening efforts are limited by the complex life cycle of the worms and the difficulties of obtaining sufficient worm numbers. Dr Johnston will isolate worm cells from various life cycle stages and use a high-content screening approach to monitor thousands of cells cultured under different conditions to increase the probability of detecting a stably growing cell line. Once one or more stable cell lines have been produced, they will establish optimal culture conditions for drug screening assays.