PALO ALTO, Calif.—Anacor Pharmaceuticals, abiopharmaceutical specializing in novel small-molecule therapeutics developedfrom its boron chemistry platform, has announced the establishment of aresearch agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (GatesFoundation) for the discovery of drug candidates for the treatment oftuberculosis and two filarial worm diseases: onchocerciasis, or riverblindness, and lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis.
"We are excited to continue our research in neglecteddiseases through this landmark research agreement with the Gates Foundation,which is known for its dedication to solving global health issues," DavidPerry, CEO of Anacor, commented in a press release. "Anacor is committed toapplying our chemistry to find new treatments for neglected diseases, and it iswith the support of partners like the Gates Foundation that we can fulfill thatcommitment."
Per the terms of the agreement, the Gates Foundation willpay Anacor $17.7 million, and will also invest $5 million in Anacor commonstock. For its part, Anacor will also create an expanded library of boroncompounds for screening for additional potential drug candidates to treatneglected diseases. Anacor will provide access to the compounds to the GatesFoundations and other organizations such as academic, governmental and othernon-profit institutions or equivalent entities.
"Anacor's boron chemistry platform can help to discover anddevelop drug candidates that address significant unmet needs for patientssuffering from neglected diseases. We are pleased to fund this researchcollaboration as well as invest in Anacor to help improve the lives of themillions of people in developing countries who are impacted by these diseases,"Trevor Mundel, president of Global Health for the Bill & Melinda GatesFoundation, said in a statement regarding the agreement.
Anacor currently has eight compounds in development, five ofwhich are clinical stage, and all have been discovered with the company's boronchemistry platform. Anacor notes on its website that boron "has two attributesthat we believe provide compounds with drug-like properties."
"First, boron-based compounds have a unique geometry thatallows them to have two distinct shapes, giving boron-based drugs the abilityto interact with biological targets in novel ways and can address targets notamenable to intervention by traditional carbon based compounds. Second, boron'sreactivity allows boron-based compounds to interact with a biological target tocreate a change that is specific to a particular disease or condition," thecompany notes.
This focus on boron-based chemistry provides Anacor withseveral advantages, the company claims on its website, including "novel accessto biological targets, broad utility across multiple disease areas, rapid andefficient synthesis of drug-like compounds [and an] unencumbered intellectualproperty landscape."
Onchocerciasis is a Neglected Tropical Disease, which theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classify as "a group ofparasitic and bacterial diseases that cause substantial illness for more thanone billion people globally." The disease is caused by the parasitic worm Onchocercavolvulus and is transmitted via bites fromblackflies. The infection of river blindness can, as the name implies, lead toblindness, as well as skin disease. This condition ranks "second only totrachoma as an infectious cause of blindness," according to the CDC.
Elephantiasis is another Neglected Tropical Disease, onethat afflicts approximately 120 million people currently, according to WorldHealth Organization estimates. The disease is caused by the transmittance offilarial parasites to humans via mosquito bites. When the larvae of theparasites are transferred, they target the lymphatic system, and in the worstcases, this disease leads to thickening of the skin and massive tissueswelling, which causes severe disfigurement and impedes everyday life.