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Small Australian Research Team Yields Big Results Towards Finding a Cure for Chagas Disease

Novel compounds identified have demonstrated activity in a mouse model

Within only two years of research, drug discovery company Epichem, in collaboration with other groups, has an excellent chance of obtaining pre-clinical novel candidate compounds to treat the cause of Chagas disease - the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi.

PERTH, Australia


Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- This medical condition is currently endemic in 21 countries across Latin America killing more people in the region each year than any other parasite-born disease including malaria. Moreover its prevalence is growing in non-endemic developed countries including Australia, USA, Japan, Spain and more with around 8million cases and 100 million people at risk.

The novel compounds identified demonstrated oral activity in an in-vivo mouse model of T. cruzi infection, suppressing bloodstream parasitemia to virtually undetectable levels after once-a-day dosing for 10-days. Compounds are potent (nM IC50 's), selective for T. cruzi parasites, are non-cytoxic EBIs with improved CYP3A4 profiles and are straight forward to synthesize allowing rapid optimization of target biological activity and drug characteristics.

Research began July 2008 when Epichem was contracted in the amount of AUD$2.7 million by the Swiss based not-for-profit organization - Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) - to identify a new cost effective medicine to treat the chronic phase of Chagas. The only available medicines for treatment are benznidazole and nifurtimox, which treat the acute phase and have poor patient compliance due to various side effects.

Drug discovery efforts have been collaborative with DNDi, a team of parasitologists from Murdoch University (Western Australia), pharmaceutical scientists at the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation (Monash University, Melbourne Australia) and recently with another group in Brazil (Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto).

According to Epichem's Head of Drug Discovery, Dr Martine Keenan, "The collaboration has worked exceptionally well due to the high levels of professional interaction, enthusiasm, availability and timeliness of testing and the goal oriented atmosphere.Importantly, the flexibility of working in a small and highly dedicated team of only 5 chemists in an intellectually unconstrained environment contributed to our success, as we were able to follow exactly where the data took us. We started with nothing in 2008 and in 3 months we had identified an exciting hit molecule fenarimol, a sterol biosynthesis inhibitor. Within 18 months the project had exemplified 4 related chemical scaffolds and quickly moved forward to produce biological activity in the mouse model."

About Epichem

Epichem is a wholly owned subsidiary of the ASX listed company PharmAust Limited. Located in Australia, Epichem has been delivering synthetic and medicinal chemistry services to the drug discovery and pharmaceutical industries for more than 7 years. An array of multinational pharmaceutical clients and others in 18 countries from around the world use the services on a regular basis. Epichem uses the most sophisticated laboratory instrumentation and world class expertise in synthetic and medicinal chemistry for the cost effective custom synthesis of drug analogue libraries and intermediates. Epichem has considerable expertise and experience in drug discovery and is actively working with many clients and collaborators including the not-for-profit Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi) as part of a consortium to find a cure for Chagas Disease.

Posted: December 2010