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Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Funding for tropical disease work
Laboratory technician - generic
The university has received funding for five years
Scientists at Dundee University have been awarded £8.1m in funding for work on developing drugs which tackle tropical diseases.

The award has come from the Wellcome Trust and has been hailed as one of the largest of its kind.

Funding will be spread over the next five years across a team of six researchers in the university's School of Life Sciences.

The aim is to turn their discoveries into drugs ready for clinical trials.

This initiative aims to marry the best of drug industry practice with academic excellence
Prof Mike Ferguson
Dundee University

Experts have been asked to concentrate on diseases which affect millions of the world's poorest people and yet attract little or no interest from pharmaceutical companies.

They include diseases such as sleeping sickness, which is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Existing drugs are no longer effective and can have serious side effects.

Hundreds of thousands of people die from such diseases each year but nobody knows the exact death toll due to a lack of medical reporting in underdeveloped countries.

Members of the Dundee research team last year discovered a 'drug target' common to three parasitic diseases rife in the developing world.

They looked at parasites causing sleeping sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

The parasite diseases
Sleeping sickness is spread by the tsetse fly
Chagas disease is spread by bites from beetle-like bugs
Leishmaniasis is spread through bites from sand flies

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI), which is part of Médecins Sans Frontières, at the time described the breakthrough as "important."

Team leader Professor Alan Fairlamb, on receiving the new multi-million pound funding, said: "Sleeping sickness is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa and is fatal if not treated.

"Chagas' disease is a silent killer. Patients are often unaware of being infected. The existing drugs are toxic and only cure some patients in the early stages of infection.

"The leishmaniases are a set of diseases ranging from nasty skin infections to grossly disfiguring infections that eat away the nose and mouth, or to fatal infection."

Colleague Prof Mike Ferguson said: "This initiative aims to marry the best of drug industry practice with academic excellence in a university environment."




SEE ALSO:
Drug hope for neglected disease
09 Oct 04 |  Health
£1.5m for sleeping sickness cure
09 Dec 03 |  Scotland


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