By HENRY OWINO
Existing treatments for visceral leishmaniasis are increasingly ineffective, can be toxic, painful and costly but new oral drugs that are affordable, safe, effective, easy to take, and can also be adapted to meet the treatment needs in different countries, says Dr Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director of Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative(DNDi).
LXE408 is a first-in-class compound, discovered at Novartis with financial support from the Wellcome Trust. Novartis is responsible for completing Phase I clinical trials and has committed to maximizing access in endemic countries.
Once approved. DNDi will lead Phase II and III clinical development, starting in India with additional trials planned in East Africa
Over one billion people worldwide are at risk of leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by the bite of a sand fly.
Visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is the most serious form of leishmaniasis, causing fever, weight loss, spleen and liver enlargement, and if left untreated, death. There are an estimated 50 000 to 90 000 new cases per year.
Novartis and(DNDi), a not-for-profit research and development (R&D) organization, have signed a collaboration and licence agreement to jointly develop LXE408, as a potential new oral treatment for visceral leishmaniasis, one of the world’s leading parasitic killers.
Upon approval, Novartis has committed to distributing the drug on an affordable basis worldwide with a focus on maximizing access in endemic countries.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Novartis from drug development to delivering a promising new oral treatment for visceral leishmaniasis. Together, we can contribute to sustaining elimination efforts in India and altering the treatment landscape in East Africa,” said Dr Fabiana Alves, Head of Visceral Leishmaniasis Clinical Program at DNDi.
“Novartis has a long-term commitment to neglected tropical diseases that spans several decades. Diseases caused by kinetoplastid parasites, such as leishmaniasis, are one of our strategic research priorities and, together with our partners, we have developed a promising portfolio of drug candidates,” said Dr Lutz Hegemann, Chief Operating Officer for Global Health at Novartis.
“We are excited to collaborate with DNDi to reimagine treatment options for people with leishmaniasis around the world.”Dr Hagemann added.