Discovery tackles neglected disease

The first application of UBC’s Global Access principles tackles Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL), a debilitating disease that affects 12 million people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 1.5 million new cases of VL are reported and close to 60,000 die annually.

In 2000, UBC pharmaceutical sciences professor Kishor Wasan discovered that when added to fat, Amphotericin B (Amp B), a powerful anti-fungal and anti-parasitic agent, high levels of the drug can be delivered to the bloodstream with no renal toxicity. In use for more than 50 years to treat VL, Amp B currently can only be administered intravenously – a considerable challenge in cost and delivery.

“As any pharmacist would tell you, compliance greatly increases when the drug can be taken orally. This is especially pertinent when we consider the population and regions most affected by VL,” says Wasan, a Distinguished University Scholar. “Now that we’ve got a formulation of a drug that can be easily administered and is effective in treating the disease, the next challenge is getting it to people who need it the most.”

“This oral formulation of Amp B was a perfect candidate for Global Access,” says Angus Livingstone, managing director of UBC’s Industry of Liaison Office. “Both Prof. Wasan and the licensee of this technology, Vancouver-based iCo Therapeutics, were enthusiastic about the opportunity.” In addition to agreeing to provide the drug at subsidized costs to developing countries, iCo Therapeutics, is co-funding Wasan’s Research Chair in Drug Delivery for Neglected Global Diseases with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The collaboration has since received support by the Consortium for Parasitic Drug Development (CPDD), a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grantee, to the tune of US$180,000.