The pressing need for new drugs to treat microbial infections is the focus of the latest special issue of Parasitology on Emerging paradigms in anti-infective drug design. The special issue brings together a series of articles which came out of the 2012 joint symposium organised by the British Society for Parasitology and Royal Society for Chemistry.  Guest editor Michael Barrett talks here about how the success of not for profit Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) could be changing the landscape in the  treatment of infectious and neglected tropical diseases associated with poverty.

“Microbial pathogens remain responsible for around one quarter of all human deaths with an overwhelming majority of these in low and middle income countries. Finding drugs to kill pathogens should be relatively easy given that they are genetically distinct from humans. However, in many instances, the identification of “druggable” targets alone has not been sufficient to underpin new drug development. Reaching targets is as important as inhibiting them. Progress in antimicrobial therapy reached its zenith between 1950 and 1980 when a plethora of new families of antibiotics were found to target different proteins, nucleic acids and membrane components in bacteria. The final years of the twentieth century saw a decline in antimicrobial drug development. The reductionist claims of molecular biology led to quests for compounds to inhibit proteins that, with the benefit of hindsight, had little prospect of being developed as drugs. However, the twenty first century has witnessed a number of key innovations that are reversing this process.

The success of a group of Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) that aim to bring compounds forward without seeking profits has changed paradigms within the pharmaceutical industry to release intellectual property on compounds that cure diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and the neglected tropical diseases. The centrality of pharmacology to the drug development process has also led to a new realism in the choice of chemotypes that are suitable for further development as antimicrobial agents. The last five years have seen the appearance of pipelines of compounds entering clinical trials to treat several of the diseases associated with poverty. It is critical that this momentum is sustained if we are to defeat some of mankind’s most persistent scourges and to expand this vision to include novel antibacterials in an era where drug resistance is threatening human and animal health.

A meeting, jointly held by the British Society for Parasitology and Royal Society of Chemistry explored novel paradigms at each stage of drug development for microbial diseases. The outcome was remarkably upbeat. For the first time in a generation new compounds are appearing in a concerted manner and the series of articles captured in this Special Issue outline the emerging paradigms in anti-infective drug design that look set to change the landscape for neglected and other tropical diseases.”

Read the Special Issue here for free until 31st March 2014.

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