Malaria and TB projects in the first wave of research to receive support from the Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation

The Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation announced this week the first research projects to receive support from the not-for profit group established last year to help transform the process of drug discovery for diseases of the developing world.

The scientists behind the three projects will be working in the open lab at the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) research campus in Spain. This co-location will provide the visiting researchers with access to the resources and facilities at the specialist pharmaceutical research centre, and the opportunity to collaborate with the GSK scientists.

GSK stated its intention last year to open its research campus outside of Madrid, Spain to scientists from universities, not-for-profit partnerships and other research institutes with the aim of discovering and developing new medicines for diseases of the developing world. The Foundation-funded ‘open lab’ projects join three other projects as the first placements.

"This is an innovative model for research collaboration, with the potential for transformative outcomes for medicine in the developing world,” said Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Trustee and Chair of the Governing Board, Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation (currently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, previously Chief Executive of the the Medical Research Council).

The three research proposals accepted by the Foundation will address issues around malaria, TB and the parasitic disease leishmaniasis. The Foundation has provided financial support for these projects, in addition to supplying an independent source of guidance and support in identifying and selecting projects for collaborative research at the GSK centre.

The challenge of improving healthcare in the developing world is enormous and far too complex to be addressed by any one group or organisation alone. Success will require creative thinking and the identification of new ways for industry, academia, NGOs and governments to work together,” said Nick Cammack, SVP and head of the Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus. “We are fully committed to playing our part and the initiation of these research projects at Tres Cantos represents an exciting step forward in a new, more open approach to stimulate research into new medicines for deadly diseases that affect the developing world.”

About the Foundation funded projects

  • CRESIB, Spain (The Barcelona Centre for International Health Research): A two-year project to create a continuous lab-based supply of the P. vivax malaria parasite in the blood stage. If successful this project will offer a technology breakthrough that could allow further advances in research on P. Vivax.
  • CICbioGUNE, Spain. An 18-month project to characterise the ubiquitylation profiles of cells infected by multiple drug resistant tuberculosis (TB) and the malaria parasite P. falciparum.
  • Durham University, UK. A 9-month project will be looking to identify compounds that can inhibit a new target in kinetoplastid protozoan parasites.  

Further details about these projects can be found on the Foundation website: www.openlabfoundation.org

Diseases of the developing world

Though medically diverse, diseases of the developing world are closely associated with poverty, and are prevelant in impoverished environments. The impact on these communities can be wide-spread and disabling. The diseases which are the focus of the Foundation and estimates of their impact include:

  • Malaria: over 780,000 people died of malaria in 2009, most of them children under the age of five. The disease perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty in the developing world and malaria-related illnesses and mortality cost Africa’s economy alone approximately USD 12 billion per year. 1
  • TB: An estimated 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009. The incidence rate of TB in sub-Saharan Africa is over 350 cases per 100 000 population and the highest number of deaths was in the Africa Region. 2
  • Kinetoplastids are a group of single-cell flagellate protozoa, with a number of these parasites causing serious diseases in humans, including sleeping sickness and Chagas disease, and leshmaniasis. It is estimated that more than 20 million individuals are infected with the parasites resulting in extensive suffering and more than 100,000 deaths per year. 3

About Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation

The Tres Cantos Open Lab Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organisation supporting scientists, academics and institutions to develop and advance ideas that could lead to new medicines to treat diseases of the developing world. The Foundation provides funding and support for collaborative research projects undertaken by visiting scientists working in the open lab at GSK’s Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus near Madrid in Spain. Proposals for projects can be submitted via the website, and are reviewed by the Foundation’s Governing Board and Trustees.

1 http://www.who.int/malaria/en/ Accessed 24 June 2011.
2 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/en/index.html Accessed 24 June 2011
3 Stuart K, Brun R et al. Kinetoplastids: related protozoan pathogens, different diseases. The Journal of Clinical Investigation V 118 (4) 2008 p1301-1310 ,http://www.jci.org/articles/view/33945/files/pdf