Bayer HealthCare will furnish the active ingredient emodepside to support the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in developing a new oral drug to treat the world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness, known as river blindness or onchocerciasis.
Bayer has been granted rights to develop emodepside for the neglected tropical disease by Astellas—which has previously licensed the compound to Bayer Animal Health for animal health uses. Bayer has commercialized emodepside as an anthelmintic veterinary drug for cats and dogs in combination with praziquantel (Profender™) and with toltrazuril (Procox™).
Following its successful use in animals, emodepside has been shown in animal models to be effective in killing the adult filarial worm linked to causing the disease.
Because the compound is macrofilaricidal, killing adult worms, Bayer reasons that emodepside could dramatically reduce treatment time of mass drug administration programs and could be used in areas and circumstances where use of “microfilaricidal” drugs that kill young worms is limited.
Mass drug administration programs for treating and controlling river blindness and other filarial diseases are based on administering drugs to entire populations. While successful, the treatments require repeating at regular intervals of every six or 12 months for up to 17 years to cover the life span of adult worms since they are microfilaricidal.
“Through our collaboration with Bayer on the development of emodepside, we hope to bring a new, safe, short-course, field-adapted treatment to patients and offer a new public health approach for countries long affected by this disease,” Bernard Pécoul, M.D., MPH, executive director of DNDi, said in a statement.
Under the agreement, DNDi will oversee preclinical and clinical development of emodepside, and Bayer, the pharmaceutical development, manufacturing, registration, and supply of the drug. According to Bayer, the agreement ensures that emodepside, if successful in later phases of drug development, would be available at the lowest sustainable price to ensure affordability and access in the current 31 African disease-endemic countries.
The rights to use technology or data generated through the collaboration allow each party to pursue the project with third partners in case of withdrawal of the other party, Bayer said.