Partnering with industry to fight malaria



Edgar Deu is looking for new ways to develop antimalarial drugs and to overcome drug resistance among the parasites that cause malaria. There were 212 million malaria cases worldwide in 2015, according to the WHO.

His research group at the Francis Crick Institute combines chemical biology and genetic approaches to identify and validate new antimalarial targets. He is working in partnership with chemists and biologists from GSK on the identification and pharmacological validation of promising drug targets.

"GSK's expertise in designing compound libraries has been extremely valuable to our research, as has access to their synthetic chemistry knowledge and facilities in Stevenage," says Edgar. "This allowed a postdoc to generate a library of more than 100 compounds in less than three months. A task that would probably have taken over a year in a regular academic lab."

The Crick and GSK's 'Link Lab' partnership has given Edgar access to industry scientists' knowledge of chemistry, drug discovery, and pharmacology so that he can combine it with his own expertise in malaria research.

Edgar's team has been given access to compounds generated by GSK in drug-development programs and is now testing them against malaria targets. GSK is actively involved in the research projects and shares information about the structure, mechanism of action and pharmacological properties of their compounds.

Through the Crick's partnership with GSK, Edgar has developed a stronger relationship with GSK's Malaria Drug Discovery Unit in Tres Cantos, Spain. It is likely that they will work together on pharmacological validation of antimalarial targets in the future. He has also been in contact with GSK medicinal chemists based in the USA to get a better understanding of how some of the molecules used in his research were designed and their pharmacological properties.

"All of our collaborations are ongoing but we have achieved quite encouraging results so far. This includes identification of very potent inhibitors of specific malarial targets, the genetic validation of two new antimalarial targets and the identification of new anti-parasitic compounds that might lead to the discovery of novel drug targets."

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