All of us at the recently established High Throughput Screening (HTS) Centre are excited to be embarking on a collaborative project between AstraZeneca and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) – with the combined goal of finding new medicines to treat river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. This project is a direct result of both organisations’ commitment to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s WIPO Re:Search program against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
This is the first project as part of our agreement with WIPO Re:Search to provide open access to our HTS facilities and compound collection. It marks a paradigm shift in the way we share knowledge. For the first time we are not only making our full diversity screening collection available but also opening up our labs for researchers to come and work alongside us. Manos Perros, Head of AstraZeneca’s Infection iMED commented: “Over 100 million people suffer from river blindness, lymphatic filariasis and loaiasis and most do not have access to treatment. This collaboration is part of AstraZeneca’s commitment to develop novel treatments for the most neglected of diseases. We are very pleased that A·WOL is accessing this novel offering that AstraZeneca has made via WIPO Re: Search.”
The new HTS Centre in the UK has access to leading automation and screening technology with a capacity for up to 50 HTS per year. Combining this with a carefully curated chemical library of 1.8 million drug-like and lead-like compounds creates a leading infrastructure for hit discovery. This type of infrastructure has long been carefully guarded by our industry, with chemical libraries of this nature being referred to as the ’Crown Jewels’ of drug discovery. While this is also true for us, we are now embracing open innovation and harnessing the power of the tools available to us to help develop and collaborate with the academic sector.
For this initial project, we are teaming up with scientists from LSTM’s A·WOL Consortium, screening compounds to determine if they are effective in killing Wolbachia – a bacterium that lives inside the parasitic worms that cause both river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The A·WOL Consortium are funded to carry out this work via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You can read more about the project here.
The vast majority of NTD academic institutions do not have access to diversity collections of this scale for their research. As a result, we believe partnerships of this kind – between pharma and academic groups – are an essential component of translational research for NTDs. This project is a true academic collaboration and we all look forward to witnessing firsthand the broad benefits that greater openness and access to information can bring.