OneWorld Health licenses compounds from Yale, U of Washington to treat major parasitic diseases

July 08, 2003

San Francisco, Calif. - July 8, 2003 -- The Institute for OneWorld Health, the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company in the United States, announced today it has licensed a novel class of high-potency compounds from Yale University and the University of Washington that could result in medicines for the developing and developed worlds.

The agreement gives OneWorld Health the exclusive license to develop the azole compounds to treat parasitic diseases in the developing world. OneWorld Health will initially focus on the use of the azoles in Chagas disease, the leading cause of heart failure in Latin America, where 16 to 18 million people are infected and another 100 million are at risk. The disease is most often transmitted by an insect known as the "kissing bug," but may also be transmitted by blood transfusion. At least 50,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. are infected as well.

The licensing agreement also creates a dual market opportunity in which the universities could seek a pharmaceutical partner to develop the same compounds for fungal infections in industrialized countries.

OneWorld Health will conduct appropriate pre-clinical tests after selecting a lead candidate among the compounds, which represent the first new potential drugs to treat Chagas disease in decades. The compounds were developed by teams led by Andrew Hamilton, deputy provost for science and technology at Yale and professor of chemistry, in collaboration with Frederick Buckner, Michael Gelb, Wesley Van Voorhis, and Kohei Yokoyama, all professors at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"We are delighted that these potent anti-Chagas agents have been licensed to an organization that is committed to their development for treatment of this terrible parasitic disease," said Hamilton, of Yale. "We look forward to working with OneWorld Health to produce drug leads that will push these compounds into pre-clinical development and beyond."

"There is more optimism than ever these days for the development of new medicines for the treatment of devastating tropical diseases," said Gelb, of the University of Washington. "With organizations like OneWorld Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, there is hope that an increasing number of efforts in academic settings to develop therapeutics for tropical diseases will actually lead to new drugs."

Victoria Hale, CEO and founder, OneWorld Health, explained, "The dual market concept is a 'win-win' for all parties. We will focus on the developing world while for-profit companies can move these compounds forward as antifungals for developed countries. We are pleased with the generosity of the universities in sharing their discoveries."

She noted that these compounds broaden OneWorld Health's product portfolio for Chagas disease, giving the company the potential to use two drugs as a combination therapy to cure the disease or overcome possible drug resistance. OneWorld Health is performing pre-clinical studies with CRA-3316, originally a compound donated to OneWorld Health by Celera Genomics, Rockville, Md., last year.

The compounds from Yale and the University of Washington are a collection of azoles with high potency against the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi). Azoles inhibit production of a chemical that is necessary for the survival of T. cruzi without harming human cells. The parasitic disease is contracted through insects widely known as "vinchuca," "barbeiro," and "chipo," in addition to the "kissing bug." (photo at http://www.oneworldhealth.org/diseases/chagas.html).

There are two stages of the human disease: the acute stage, which appears shortly after the infection, and the chronic stage, which appears after a silent period that may last decades. Chronic Chagas disease costs more than (U.S.) $8 billion annually to Latin American economies. This figure will continue to rise since a substantial proportion of the current 16 to 18 million infected persons will develop serious heart and gastrointestinal disease over the next two decades.

Since current therapies lack efficacy and are highly toxic, most efforts to eradicate or contain the disease today focus on controlling insects by spraying, housing improvement, blood testing and screening of blood donors.
-end-
The Institute for OneWorld Health, the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company in the U.S., advances global health by developing new medicines for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people in the developing world. OneWorld Health accomplishes this through an entrepreneurial business model in which its scientists identify promising drug leads and drive their development from pre-clinical trials to clinical trials through regulatory approval. The Institute for OneWorld Health, headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., is a tax-exempt 501(c )(3) U.S. corporation (www.oneworldhealth.org).

Institute for OneWorld Health

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