AstraZeneca and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine combine resources in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Boston, USA

AstraZeneca and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine announced today a research agreement aimed at finding new medicines to treat river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, which are neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect millions of people.

Under the terms of the agreement, AstraZeneca will make a selection of its research compounds available to scientists at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Anti-Wolbachia (A∙WOL) Consortium, who will test the compounds to determine if they are effective in killing Wolbachia – a bacterium that is an essential symbiont, which lives inside the parasitic worms that cause both river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. New medicines are needed to treat these diseases because there are limited therapeutic options constrained by drug resistance, sub-optimal treatment regimes, co-infection related adverse events or incomplete targeting of the parasite life-cycle.

Professor Mark Taylor of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine said:

The access to new medicines from AstraZeneca adds to our growing portfolio of drug libraries made available through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s CEO Roundtable Translational Research Working Group. It is a good example of the success of this approach and the commitment of pharma to NTDs being put into practice. The partnership of pharma and academic groups is an essential step in translational research for new NTD drugs, which is going to be crucial if the goal to eliminate NTDs is going to be realised.

Manos Perros, Head of the AstraZeneca Infection Innovative Medicines Unit said:

AstraZeneca’s ongoing global investment in infectious disease research has built a large library of scientific assets that might benefit the millions of people who suffer from NTDs. By engaging in open innovation through partnerships with organisations on the front lines of NTD research, we hope to advance the science and deliver new treatments in these underserved areas of medicine.

The agreement between AstraZeneca and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine is a result of AstraZeneca’s membership in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s CEO Roundtable Translational Research Working Group - a structured, multi-company approach to help speed the discovery and development of treatments for NTDs. The research agreement will work in parallel with other efforts to speed the development of critical NTD treatments, including WIPO Re:Search, a database of research compounds, knowledge and expertise.

Notes to Editors:

About River Blindness

River blindness or onchocerciasis is almost exclusively confined to West and Central Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, the disease is transmitted by a blackfly that lives
and breeds near fast-flowing streams and rivers. In addition to visual impairment or blindness, onchocerciasis causes skin disease, including nodules under the skin or debilitating itching. An estimated 37 million people are infected and 90 million people live in areas that put them at risk of infection.

About Lymphatic Filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is transmitted by different types of mosquitoes and affects an estimated 128 million people in South-East Asia and Africa. The disease can result in an altered lymphatic system and the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain and severe disability.

About NTDs

More than 1 billion people – a sixth of the world’s population – suffer from Neglected Tropical Diseases. In 149 countries one or more NTDs are endemic. Unfortunately, these countries tend to be amongst the poorest in the world, where the loss of productivity of the working population and the costs of health provision caused by NTDs hinders economic, social, and political development. This makes NTDs a pressing global healthcare challenge. However, due to low commercial incentives, it has been an under researched area, receiving less funding than more high profile diseases, like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical business with a primary focus on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines for gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neuroscience, respiratory and inflammation, oncology and infectious disease. AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. For more information please visit:

About Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has been engaged in the fight against infectious, debilitating and disabling diseases for more than a hundred years and continues that tradition today with a research portfolio in excess of £190 million and a teaching programme attracting students from over 50 countries.

About A∙WOL

The A∙WOL Consortium consists of both academic and industrial partners funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose aim is to develop new drugs against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis. The Consortium is working to create products compatible with mass drug administration programmes for human filariasis and to provide an alternative treatment in the event of drug-resistance to current treatments.

Media contacts:


Laura Woodin
Media Lead, AstraZeneca R&D
Tel: +1 302 885 1087 / +1 610 999 8330