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University of Tokyo and Astellas Enter Collaborative Research for Target Discovery of New Drugs for Neglected Tropical Diseases Caused by Protozoan Parasites

November 12, 2012

Tokyo, Japan, November 12, 2012 –The University of Tokyo and Astellas Pharma Inc. (Tokyo:4503,“Astellas”) have today entered into a collaborative research to discover new drugs for the treatment of neglected tropical diseases (“NTDs”) Note 1 caused by protozoan parasites.


NTDs, prevalent mainly among the poor in tropical areas of developing countries, are infectious diseases spread by parasites or bacteria. As it is estimated that approximately one billion people are affected with NTDs worldwide, NTDs are a serious healthcare issue that is being addressed on a global scale. Among them, diseases caused by protozoan parasites, such as leishmaniasis Note 2, Chagas disease Note 3 and sleeping sickness Note 4 are not with effective medicines for treatment and are being required to development of new therapeutic drugs.


Under the collaborative agreement, Professor Kiyoshi Kita, Biomedical Chemistry, International Health, Graduate School of Medicine and Faculty of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, and Astellas will select target molecules for drug discovery through experiments and verifications on the validity of plural target candidate molecules, which are expected to be suitable for discovery of compounds against protozoan parasites.

The research will be divided into two stages on the process of the implementation. The first stage aims for selection of multiple potential candidate target molecules for discovery of drugs against protozoan parasites in the collaboration between the department of Biomedical Chemistry and Astellas. The department of Biomedical Chemistry has its history of results in investigation on molecular characteristics of enzymes among protozoan parasites, development of low-molecular drugs, and research on NTDs. On this stage, Astellas will select potential candidate target molecules based on currently available information (human genome information, three-dimensional structure of protein, and information on compounds against protozoan parasites) useful for anti-parasite drug discovery, in addition to information and data that the department of Biomedical Chemistry has accumulated over many years.

In the second stage, the University of Tokyo will verify the validity of candidate target molecules and select target molecules for drug discovery by using genetic engineering (e.g., gene overexpression strains and gene disrupted strains)Note 5 and biochemical methods (e.g., construction of enzyme reaction
systems)Note 6 with regard to the possibility of candidate target molecules for anti-parasitic therapy, and the feasibility of drug discovery research.


The University of Tokyo and Astellas will work together to discover drugs in a short time period for patients suffering from NTDs caused by protozoan parasites in the world, through their collaborative research aiming to contribute to improve global public health problems.


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