Tayside and Central Scotland

New Dundee drug centre to target killer diseases in developing world

Bill gates
Image caption Part of the funding for the new centre is coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

A major new centre is to be established at Dundee University to boost the development of new drugs to treat diseases in the developing world.

Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and sleeping sickness kill millions each year.

Dundee University's Drug Discovery Unit hope the new facility will speed up the rate at which new drugs are developed.

The £6.5m funding for the project comes from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

The university said that while significant efforts were being made in early stage drug discovery, there was a bottleneck when it came to the lead optimisation stage of molecules targeting these so called "neglected" diseases.

Intensive process

Lead optimisation is a key stage in the drug discovery process, where early leads are improved through cycles of design, synthesis and testing to identify potential drugs which are suitable for testing in a clinical setting.

It is a labour intensive process requiring significant laboratory resource over a number of years, limiting drug companies' willingness to invest.

Prof Wyatt, from the Drug Discovery Unit said: "One of the main aims of the Drug Discovery Unit is to make inroads into developing drugs for diseases that affected the developing world. We have the capability through the DDU to help break the bottleneck which occurs at a key stage of the drug discovery process."

Millions of deaths

The initial research will focus on tuberculosis, the world's second-leading infectious killer, which disproportionately affects developing countries.

In 2010, it caused 1.4m deaths, 8.8 million new infections and 450 thousand drug-resistant TB cases.

Dr Richard Seabrook, head of business development at the Wellcome Trust, said: "We are pleased to be co-funding with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on this exciting UK project, bringing together internationally renowned experts in the biology of infectious diseases with a first-class drug discovery unit to tackle some of the world's most profound medical needs."

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