Improving Collaborations for Neglected Tropical Diseases

Open Access
Funded on 12/31/13
Successfully Funded
  • $25,031
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 12/31/13

About This Project

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) infect over a billion of the poorest people in the world, yet only a tiny fraction of all drug discovery efforts is focused on this. There is little sharing of data across labs working in this area, leading to duplication of effort and precious time and money wasted. We are piloting a new data sharing model for NTD drug discovery that will help speed treatments for these diseases that disable and kill so many.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?

Data sharing for the greater good: Data amongst researchers is often kept confidential for patent and commercialization purposes. This option is not sustainable for NTD drug discovery.

This project will help fund a robust online collaboration platform that will be used to share data among other scientists under an umbrella of confidentiality. While there are groups who have developed fully "open" models of drug discovery, this requires a willingness of scientists to share all of their data with anyone and everyone who has an internet connection. Not all scientists are comfortable with this scenario.

This platform will provide a safe and secure place for researchers to work toward fighting diseases such as African Sleeping Sickness, Chagas disease, malaria, and leishmaniasis.

We know this platform will not only encourage sharing amongst leading researchers in the area of NTD drug discovery, but also more quickly bring drugs to market that could cure these infections.

WATCH: Help Us Fight Neglected Diseases

What is the significance of this project?

Drug discovery is extremely costly, time-consuming, and risky, and we need better ways to prevent wasteful duplication of effort as we try to discover drugs for neglected tropical diseases.

Drug discovery for NTDs attracts only a small fraction of research globally in comparison to common diseases such as cancer, diabetes, or obesity.

This small fraction of NTD drug discovery is poorly coordinated, and, most frequently, experimental results and progress are often shared via "closed" channels, such as scholarly publications or conference presentations that occur many months after the results are generated. Or, worse, some results are never shared at all.

With this platform, we will be able to cut down on duplicated research efforts and focus on a more collaborative and streamlined approach toward drug discovery. One benefit of this is the opportunity to test compounds made for one parasite against several others. Simply by testing a compound on multiple parasites may produce new leads, but we won’t know unless scientists share information. This platform will be a hub for this type of essential collaboration.

What are the goals of the project?

1. Experimental costs. Not all NTD drug discovery teams have access to all of the experimental capabilities needed to make the best project decisions possible. The collaboration team will discuss the projects in the Consortium, identify experimental gaps, and prioritize key experiments for helping make important decisions about specific compound classes. These include in vitro drug metabolism experiments, physicochemical properties experiments, pharmacokinetics experiments, or synthetic chemistry.

2. Database costs
. We are working with Collaborative Drug Discovery, a leading provider for cloud-based drug discovery database systems that are highly amenable for data sharing.

3. Publicity!
Once we involve participating collaborator labs, we will publicize this model in order to attract new members and longer-term funding. This will be achieved by publication of the model in open journals (such as PLoS-Neglected Tropical Diseases), and establishment of a website and social media strategy.

How far can my contribution go?

  • $75 will pay for a solubility experiment for one compound
  • $250 will pay for a metabolic stability assay for one compound
  • $500 can fund two compounds tested in drug metabolism stability measurements
  • $1400 is enough to perform a pharmacokinetic experiment to test whether a drug will be absorbed well following oral dosing
  • $2500 will fund the biological testing of 10 compounds against the parasites that cause malaria, sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease
  • $5000 will fund the chemical supplies for a medicinal chemist for a year.

This is only the beginning! We believe that with this seed funding we can establish a model that will revolutionize how NTD drug discovery efforts are undertaken. Once we get the ball rolling and show how this kind of collaboration can be done, we expect that many others will join and contribute their experience and expertise. In other words, this campaign is one step towards building a larger, faster, and more open world of drug discovery for NTDs.


  • $12,500Database subscriptions
  • $10,000Experimental seed fund
  • $2,500Publication & publicity to recruit consortium members

Funds raised in this campaign will be directed to three primary goals. First, we need to defray the costs of the database system. We have been working with Collaborative Drug Discovery for the last four years and have found their system to be flexible, easy-to-use, and highly functional for the collaborative nature of drug discovery. Second, we intend to provide seed funding for key laboratory experiments in support of consortium members' projects. Often, key capabilities (such as synthetic chemistry) or bits of data that are important for making good drug discovery decision (such as solubility, or metabolic stability) can be slightly out of reach of some academic research groups. As a group, consortium members will collaborate and determine priorities for these research expenditures. Third, we intend to get the word out about this collaborative model by a variety of means, including publications, social media, and professional networking.

Meet the Team

Michael Pollastri
Michael Pollastri
Associate Professor - Chemistry


Prof. Pollastri’s primary research focus is on discovery of new therapeutics for neglected tropical diseases, using a “parachute” or “repurposing” approach. In this approach, he identifies parasitic targets of importance that have been previously biochemically validated, with a further focus on those targets with human homologs that have been pursued in human drug discovery. Prof. Pollastri’s lab then prepares known ligands previously reported against the human homolog for assessment against the parasite target, and then pursue an optimization program from that starting point. Our lab is focused on parasite phosphodiesterases and kinases, in order to discover new lead compounds for treatment of African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, and malaria.