News Feature | March 21, 2014

Eisai Partners With Liverpool Institutions To Develop Drugs

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Eisai Co., Ltd. announced it has entered into collaboration with two Liverpool educational institutions to identify and develop drugs for anti-wolbachia therapy against filariasis.

The Tokyo based pharmaceutical company partnered with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (Liverpool, United Kingdom, “LSTM”) and University of Liverpool (Liverpool, United Kingdom, “UoL”) to identify new drugs together that are effective against lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis (river blindness), both major types of filariasis.

According to the World Health Organization, filariasis infection in its lymphatic form is caused by filarial worms Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi or B. timori. The parasites are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. These develop into adult worms in the lymphatic vessels, leading to severe damage and lymphoedema. A classic sign of late stage filariasis is elephantiasis, a painful and disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs.

“Under the collaboration, Eisai will work with LSTM, a non-profit institution with a mission to develop and implement new tools and technologies for the control and treatment of tropical diseases, and UoL, a world-class academy that has made major contributions toward understanding the mechanisms of drug action of several classes of anti-parasitic drugs, to identify and develop novel drug candidates that efficiently eliminate the bacteria Wolbachia. Wolbachia live inside the parasitic worms, known as filariae that cause lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, two infectious diseases that together affect more than 150 million people worldwide. As filariae are dependent on these Wolbachia for growth, development, reproduction and survival, these worms can be effectively eradicated by first eliminating the Wolbachia inside them,” Eisai stated in its press release.

Anti-Wolbachia therapy is a novel method of treatment that can significantly reduce the time scale of elimination programs and provide alternatives and tools that can be used in areas where current treatment approaches fail or cannot be deployed.

Under the new collaboration, Eisai will aim to identify potential new drug compounds that are more quick acting and more effective than doxycycline, an antiobiotic used against filariasis that could be used across all patient population groups. Eisai also said that it will develop molecules to the point of pre-clinical safety testing.