Recent Research Highlights Potential Of Open Access In Drug Discovery

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The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) announced the identification of three potential drug classes for the treatment of neglected tropical diseases through the availability of hundreds of compounds in the public domain.

In an effort to accelerate drug discovery for malaria and neglected diseases, MMV made available 400 diverse compounds with antimalarial activity free of charge through an open access initiative called the “Malaria Box,” launched in December 2011.

The results of DNDi’s screening, in partnership with the Laboratory for Microbiology, Parasitology and Hygiene (LMPH), University of Antwerp, revealed the identification of two potential drug series for the treatment of sleeping sickness and one for leishmaniasis.

“Although this is still a very early stage in medicine research, these findings are exciting as it’s rare to find new compounds that can kill these pathogens, which are particularly complicated,” Tim Wells, chief scientific officer at MMV, told Intellectual Property Watch.

In exchange for the compounds, MMV requests that users share their resulting data in the public domain within two years. So far, over 100 Malaria Boxes have been distributed across the globe for research on diseases including malaria, neglected diseases, HIV, and cancer.

“Often you have people discussing how to carve out the IP before there is even any IP, which may actually slow down creative innovation” – MMV Chief Scientific Officer Tim Wells

“We are not worrying about controlling the issues related to intellectual property rights down the line. Often you have people discussing how to carve out the IP before there is even any IP, which may actually slow down creative innovation. We think that it’s more important to get people working on these disease areas now,” Wells said.

DNDi said that the screenings have strengthened its research pipeline. “Now that we have identified two series that showed activity in vitro against leishmaniasis and sleeping sickness, we are moving forward to the next stage of development, which implies in vivo testing.” Jean-Robert Ioset, discovery manager at DNDi told Intellectual Property Watch.

In a communication released by the two organisations on 14 November, DNDi Executive Director Bernard Pécoul called the open access initiative part of “an encouraging new paradigm.”

“We have to maintain a sharp focus on neglected patient needs and increase our efforts to open up research knowledge, reduce duplication in research efforts, and work together to fill the R&D gaps for diseases that afflict the poorest populations of the world,” Pécoul said.

Rachel Marusak Hermann may be reached at

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