WIPO Re:Search – 150 Collaborations and Counting in the Fight Against NTDs, Malaria and Tuberculosis

September 2, 2019

WIPO Re:Search has recently surpassed 150 research collaborations in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), malaria and tuberculosis (TB), marking an important milestone for the consortium that aims to improve global health through the sharing of intellectual property (IP) protected materials and other know how.

This public-private consortium, established in 2011 between WIPO and BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) (a U.S.-based global health non-profit organization), currently has 141 members spanning 41 countries. WIPO Re:Search catalyzes the development of new medicines and technologies in the fight against NTDs, malaria and TB.  Through innovative research partnerships, it makes IP available to researchers who need it.  Members include pharmaceutical companies, universities, research centers, and others with IP assets and proven expertise. WIPO Re:Search collaborations enable scientists to obtain IP assets (e.g. molecular compounds), data, know-how, and additional resources, thereby , saving time and money in developing new medicines and technologies to counter these debilitating illnesses.

Several WIPO Re:Search collaborations that show particular progress are highlighted below. More can be found in the recent publication "WIPO Re:Search: Advancing science for neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis."

Repurposing Heart Disease Drug Atopaxar to Target Cerebral Malaria

Eisai (Japan) + Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (United Kingdom) (2014 – present)

Dr. Alister Craig and his colleagues at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine were working on finding a medication that could help prevent brain swelling in children with cerebral malaria, which is caused by the parasite P. falciparum interfering with a blood clotting process.

On the other side of the world, experts at leading Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai had invested in developing atopaxar, the protein inhibitor Dr. Craig’s team needed to move their research forward.

Photo of Dr. Makoto Asada, Eisai

Through a WIPO Re:Search collaboration, Dr. Craig reached out to Eisai and was given access to these compounds.

For Eisai, this collaboration was a great opportunity to repurpose the intellectual property we had invested so much in and to find a second indication that could benefit a great number of people – especially when speaking of malaria, which affects so many around the world.

Dr. Makoto Asada, Eisai

Screening the Jump-stARter Library Against TB and Malaria

Johnson & Johnson (USA) + Washington University in St. Louis (USA) (2017 – present)
Johnson & Johnson (USA) + Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (Australia) (2016 – present)

Like all pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson has a large corporate collection of compounds. Recently J&J created the Jump-stARter library – a collection of 80,000 curated compounds – designed to provide starting points for new targets and therapeutics.

Through WIPO Re:Search, researchers like Dr. Christina Stallings at the Washington University in St. Louis working on TB and Dr. Alan Cowman at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research working on malaria have obtained access to the libraries and expertise from J&J, which accelerates the process of developing new therapeutics – a win for all.

Photo of Christina Stallings, Washington University

We needed access to good libraries...

We have had some issues validating hits from these sorts of libraries. So we wanted something good.

We became a member of WIPO Re:Search and applied for the Jump-StARter opportunity and got it, which was very exciting.

Dr. Christina Stallings, Washington University in St. Louis

Screening Natural Product Extracts Against TB

Infectious Disease Research Institute (USA) + National Institutes Of Health (USA) + University Of British Columbia (Canada) (2013 – present)

WIPO Re:Search connected a team at the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) in Seattle, Washington, which focuses on the discovery of new drugs for curing drug-sensitive/resistant TB, to the US National Institutes of Health Natural Products Branch, which administers and shares large natural products repositories with researchers around the world.

Initial screening of product extracts from the NIH resulted in multiple hits, so WIPO Re:Search next connected the IDRI team to a natural products expert chemist at the University of British Columbia, who helped solve the chemical structures of these complex novel compounds.

Photo of the TB group, Infectious Disease Research Institute
TB group, Infectious Disease Research Institute

Collaborations such as these require a rich library of natural products extracts, such as the ones we have here at the University of British Columbia and… at the NIH. They also need biologists at the cutting edge of their field... So working [this collaboration] has been a perfect fit.

Dr. Raymond Andersen, UBC

Repurposing Cholesterol-Lowering Compounds to Target Schistosomiasis

University Of California, San Diego (USA) + Merck / Msd (USA) (2011 - present)

Dr. Conor Caffrey and his team at the Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) demonstrated that a key cholesterol metabolism enzyme is also essential for the survival of schistosomes (which causes schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease), so they started looking for inhibitors, known as statins.

Through WIPO Re:Search, Dr. Caffrey was connected first with a team at Merck & Co. who shared various statins for screening and later the Structural Genomics Consortium who helped in the process of clarifying the protein structure of the statins.

Photo of Conor Caffrey, University of California

One of the most important aspects that organizations like WIPO bring to the table is that they increase visibility for the diseases and the research involved.

This increased visibility has enabled us to access further opportunities and resources.

Dr. Conor Caffrey, University of California, San Diego