In April 2016, Astellas signed a new collaborative research agreement with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).
The collaborative research is targeting Chagas disease, one of the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)*1 caused by protozoan parasites belonging to trypanosomatidae*2, for which a new drug is urgently needed to address unmet medical needs. Since 2012, Astellas has been collaborating with five research institutions in Japan as well as with an international non-profit organization*3 to discover new drugs for the treatment of NTDs caused by protozoan parasites belonging to trypanosomatidae. By utilizing the knowledge obtained through this collaborative research, Astellas and AIST will now pursue collaborative research to discover new drugs for the treatment of Chagas disease.
Astellas and AIST will work collaboratively to validate whether genes crucial for the survival of Trypanosoma cruzi (the cause of the disease) can be pinpointed in a short period of time using genome editing technology. Through this new collaborative research, Astellas will endeavor to amass the scientific knowledge that will lead to the discovery of new drugs for patients suffering from Chagas disease around the world.
In case this approach is validated, the formation of an AIST-driven research consortium, in which multiple research institutions will participate to conduct extensive genome editing studies on the genes of Trypanosoma cruzi and pursue discovery of new drugs for the treatment of Chagas disease in a larger framework, is planned. Astellas also plans to consider joining the consortium.
*1 Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): NTDs are infections caused by parasites and bacteria which are rampant mainly among underprivileged people in tropical areas of developing countries. It is estimated that over one billion people worldwide are suffering from these infections.
*2 In addition to Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and African trypanosomiasis are also caused by protozoan parasites belonging to trypanosomatidae.
*3 Collaborative research has also been undertaken with the University of Tokyo, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Nagasaki University, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, AIST and the international non-profit organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).