25 March 2014

Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium expands into Brazil

Goal is to make treatment for schistosomiasis accessible to children under six years of age in endemic countries.

Leiden, The Netherlands, March 25, 2014

Brazilian Farmanguinhos, part of Fiocruz, and UK-based Simcyp are reinforcing the international non-profit Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium. The aim of the Consortium is to develop and register a new pediatric formulation against schistosomiasis for preschool-age children, a group currently lacking a suitable treatment. If not treated properly, the parasitic disease results in high morbidity involving anemia, stunting and reduced learning ability. In some cases, it can also be fatal. Farmanguinhos brings its expertise in pharmaceutical manufacturing in endemic countries and Simcyp its pharmacokinetic modeling capabilities. Both partners join the Consortium at a crucial point in which the program is ready to move into the clinical stage.

The know-how of Simcyp and Farmanguinhos complements the existing scientific, regulatory and access expertise provided by the founding partners of the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium. The Consortium is now in a strong position to start the clinical development program of a newly developed praziquantel pediatric formulation suitable for use in the very young children, including infants and toddlers.

Farmanguinhos, the federal governmental pharmaceutical laboratory of the Fiocruz Foundation in Brazil, brings unique expertise to produce and distribute the new pediatric product in endemic countries. Simcyp, a UK research-based company, will build and validate a pharmacokinetic model that will allow a better prediction of the appropriate dosage to be used in pediatric clinical trials. Stefan Oschmann, Member of the Merck Executive Board, comments, "We are very pleased to welcome Farmanguinhos and Simcyp to our partnership. Respectively, they bring critical manufacturing and drug modeling expertise to the consortium. Over the last year, we've made important progress across the pediatric praziquantel program, with advances in the clinic that will enable new options for young children suffering from schistosomiasis, and ultimately, accelerate our goal of eliminating the disease altogether."

For Brazil, this partnership opens up a range of opportunities. Hayne Felipe, director of Farmanguinhos says, “We look forward to this collaboration and see this as a breakthrough in the battle against schistosomiasis in infected young children, a group lacking suitable treatment until now. At Farmanguinhos, we ultimately aim at providing access to the drug directly to children affected by the disease in Brazil.”

With the integration of Simcyp, the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium acquires modeling expertise in the area of pediatric development. Simcyp's model will incorporate the relevant metabolic interactions related to ethnicity and disease state. By doing so, it will enable the Consortium to better predict the appropriate dosage for the pediatric clinical trials in preschool-age children, which is important for the development program.

Schistosomiasis, endemic in 78 developing countries, is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by parasitic worms. The disease affects 243 million people globally and is commonly associated with poor sanitation and no access to drinking water. Infections in early childhood may develop into most severe pathologies over years such as hepatosplenomegaly, portal hypertension, and organ failure. Today, there is no adequate treatment for children under the age of six which are estimated to account for 10% of the global population infected or at risk.