Politicians see drug discovery expertise at work

Published on 21 September 2023

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum today heard how University of Dundee research could help save millions of lives in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)

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Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases visited the Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) and to find out about Dundee’s work to tackle diseases that more than three billion people are at risk from globally.

Scientists from the DDU and the Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR) demonstrated how they uncover new insights into the likes of malaria, TB, leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, cryptosporidiosis and schistosomiasis in the hope of developing potential new therapies for these devastating diseases.

Catherine West MP, Co-Chair of the APPG, said, “It has been fantastic for MPs and House of Lords members to see what is being done in Dundee. Our group is seeking to push the Government towards the eradication of certain infectious diseases and the work taking place in Dundee is an important step towards that.

"Dundee’s specialism in malaria and neglected tropical diseases is very exciting, as is the way that industry and scientists from all over the world collaborate at the University. It really is an example of best practice.”

The APPG’s mission is to build cross-party parliamentary support in the fight to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases. The visit to the University follows on from a meeting between members of the APPG and a group from the DDU and WCAIR at the Houses of Parliament last year.

Existing treatments for neglected tropical diseases are expensive, difficult to administer, unsafe and/or increasingly ineffective as the pathogens that underlie these conditions develop resistance.

The WCAIR is developing new methods, technologies and processes that will make drug discovery for neglected tropical diseases faster and smarter, training the next generation of researchers, and informing the public about the role that science plays in fighting poverty and disease.

The DDU bridges the gap between academic scientific research and commercial drug development. Four DDU-developed compounds are currently in clinical development and nine assets are licensed to pharmaceutical companies. DDU partnerships with pharma companies bring millions of pounds in international investment to Dundee.

Successes include developing a rapid diagnostic test for African sleeping sickness and two drugs in clinical development to treat visceral leishmaniasis while a compound invented in Dundee can treat malaria with a single dose and is now in advanced human trials in Africa.

Professor Ian Gilbert, Head of the DDU and Director of WCAIR, said, “We were delighted to welcome members of the All Party Parliamentary Group to Dundee and to demonstrate to them the important role that we are playing in the fight against neglected infectious diseases.”

Earlier this year, Professor Gilbert met with Foreign Secretary James Cleverley MP at an event in Ghana where he talked about Dundee’s efforts to combat neglected tropical diseases and the partnerships the University has formed in LMICs to further this work.

Dundee’s Africa Initiative embodies the University’s commitment to active, equitable partnership. Launched in November 2022, it is ten-year programme working with partners in research, education and engagement, to enrich lives both in Scotland and Africa.