Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Companies join forces in war on disease

As complex diseases grow more expensive to treat, and treatments increasingly expensive to develop, more companies may be looking at an innovative model set up last year by two of the biggest of Big Pharma.

Last November, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer created ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture focusing on the research, development and commercialisation of HIV medicines. Pfizer's chief executive, Jeff Kindler, said ViiV had the capability to “reach more patients and accomplish much more for the treatment of HIV globally than either company on its own”. The new joint venture will use revenue from its existing HIV treatments, which totalled some £1.6 billion (US$2.38 billion) in 2008, to support investment in its pipeline and programmes.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Organizational Meeting 2nd Video

Organizational Meeting of Country Coordinators
Pan Pacific Manila, Philippines
October 21, 2009

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Organizational Meeting 1st Video

Organizational Meeting of Country Coordinators
Pan Pacific Manila, Philippines
October 21, 2009

Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.

Identification of Attractive Drug Targets in Neglected-Disease Pathogens Using an In Silico Approach

Crowther GJ, Shanmugam D, Carmona SJ, Doyle MA, Hertz-Fowler C, et al. (2010) Identification of Attractive Drug Targets in Neglected-Disease Pathogens Using an In Silico Approach. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(8): e804. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000804

Increased sequencing of pathogen genomes and the subsequent availability of genome-scale functional datasets are expected to guide the experimental work necessary for target-based drug discovery. However, a major bottleneck in this has been the difficulty of capturing and integrating relevant information in an easily accessible format for identifying and prioritizing potential targets. The open-access resource TDRtargets.org facilitates drug target prioritization for major tropical disease pathogens such as the mycobacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis; the kinetoplastid protozoans Leishmania major, Trypanosoma brucei, and Trypanosoma cruzi; the apicomplexan protozoans Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, and Toxoplasma gondii; and the helminths Brugia malayi and Schistosoma mansoni.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Here we present strategies to prioritize pathogen proteins based on whether their properties meet criteria considered desirable in a drug target. These criteria are based upon both sequence-derived information (e.g., molecular mass) and functional data on expression, essentiality, phenotypes, metabolic pathways, assayability, and druggability. This approach also highlights the fact that data for many relevant criteria are lacking in less-studied pathogens (e.g., helminths), and we demonstrate how this can be partially overcome by mapping data from homologous genes in well-studied organisms. We also show how individual users can easily upload external datasets and integrate them with existing data in TDRtargets.org to generate highly customized ranked lists of potential targets.


Using the datasets and the tools available in TDRtargets.org, we have generated illustrative lists of potential drug targets in seven tropical disease pathogens. While these lists are broadly consistent with the research community's current interest in certain specific proteins, and suggest novel target candidates that may merit further study, the lists can easily be modified in a user-specific manner, either by adjusting the weights for chosen criteria or by changing the criteria that are included.

Material reposted under the Creative Commons License.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Targeting HIV at its source

Promising cure for HIV induces apoptosis, targets infected cells in vitro

Current HIV treatments do not eradicate HIV from host cells but rather inhibit virus replication and delay the onset of AIDS. However, a new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal, AIDS Research & Therapy describes an innovative approach to eliminate HIV in host by targeted killing of only HIV infected cells. This approach if successful could lead into an anti-HIV therapy that will eradicate the virus.

On infection, HIV spreads through the human body after the viral DNA is incorporated into the genome of host cells. Current Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapies (HAART) work by blocking HIV replication at various steps but does not eliminate the infected cells. Now, Professors Abraham Loyter, Assaf Friedler and their colleagues at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, focussed on the elimination of infected cells.

Effects of global health initiatives on national health systems

Recent Global Health Initiatives (GHI) have been created to address single disease issues in low-income countries, such as neonatal tetanus, poliomyelitis, trachoma, etc. Empirical evidence on the effects of such GHIs on local health systems remains scarce.

This study by Dormael and colleagues explored positive and negative effects of the Integrated Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Control Initiative, comprising mass preventive chemotherapy for five targeted NTDs, on Mali's health system where it was first implemented in 2007.

The paper offered that disease-specific interventions implemented as parallel activities in fragile health services may further weaken their responsiveness to community needs, especially when several GHIs operate simultaneously. Health system strengthening will not result from the sum of selective global interventions but requires a comprehensive approach.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MRSA-lysing paint for hospital walls

Building on an enzyme found in nature, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a nanoscale coating for surgical equipment, hospital walls, and other surfaces which safely eradicates methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacteria responsible for antibiotic resistant infections.

In tests, 100 percent of MRSA in solution were killed within 20 minutes of contact with a surface painted with latex paint laced with the coating.

The new coating marries carbon nanotubes with lysostaphin, a naturally occurring enzyme used by non-pathogenic strains of Staph bacteria to defend against Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA. The resulting nanotube-enzyme "conjugate" can be mixed with any number of surface finishes — in tests, it was mixed with ordinary latex house paint.

Zooming into this wormy world

A set of informational maps displaying prevalence and distribution of worm infections in each African country was launched 17 August. This Wormy World, with URL at www.thiswormyworld.org, is the first of a series of Global Atlas of Helminth Infections that provides an open-access, free information resource vital for planning and implementation of deworming programs.

This Wormy World identifies areas in a country that most urgently require mass treatment to control infection and predicts the risk of infection in areas where data is lacking. The Global Atlas of Helminth Infections has been produced by an international collaboration lead by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College London. For a decade, the group has been gathering survey data to describe the distribution and prevalence of worm infection.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Promoting a reward scheme for public health innovation

Will offering a hefty cash prize to inventing entities bring more innovative strategies to long-standing world challenges? Some say it will, and indeed it has. A recent Economist article cited a burgeoning sector in the private commercial air-space service after the successful $10M Ansari X prize was given out in 2004.

Such a reward scheme has been a practice since 1714 in Britain. The question begs, will it work in the public health sector? It remains to be seen, such as with the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC)'s $1.5-billion challenge to beef up production of pneumococcal vaccines to supply developing countries.

Further, why not come up with a parallel punishment mechanism? If research institutes are so adamant in requesting for initial funding, why have we not seen such eagerness to promote their supposed output? I wonder.

1. The Economist. (2010, August 5).
And the winner is…
3. The Global Health Case Study Initiative.

4. WHO Bulletin. (2008, May 5).
Controversial funding mechanism to fight pneumonia.