10 July 2014

ERC consolidator grant winner

Prof. Jennifer Keiser of Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), partner at the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, received a prestigious ‘ERC Consolidator Grant’ from the European Research Council. 

The grant helps her to continue to develop novel approaches for drug discovery and development against worm infections.

A key researcher in the field of schistosomiasis has just received a prestigious ‘ERC Consolidator Grant’ from the European Research Council (ERC) early 2014. Prof. Jennifer Keiser is Head of the Helminth Drug Development Group at Swiss TPH, and she won one of 238 grants from a total of 3,700 applications.

The grant of 2.3 million Euro means that an ambitious 5-year research plan entitled ‘Anti helminthic Research and Optimization A-HERO’, has received the necessary funds and has started. This project has the goal of developing and validating novel approaches for drug discovery and development against worm infections. Prof. Keiser aims to address questions around improved treatments for soil-transmitted worm infections, and for schistosomiasis in children. This is an important step, in the light of what is currently a dry drug discovery pipeline for neglected helminthic diseases.

Micro-calorimetry

Helminthic diseases pose a major drug discovery challenge. Existing molecular tools are very limited, and visual assessment of phenotypic effects, using a microscope, is still the method of choice when assessing drug candidates. In order to improve efficiency and speed, Prof. Keiser has proposed measuring the effects of drugs on worm body temperature. This is achieved using a high precision chip calorimeter.

Combination treatments

The potential of currently available anti-helminthic drugs will also be examined by the project, by using in vitro, in vivo and clinical trials to seek new combination treatments. Novel methodologies will be evaluated for predicting pharmacokinetics of both existing and new drugs that target soil-transmitted helminthiasis.

Schistosomiasis and praziquantel

Last but not least, and significantly for the Consortium, the pharmacokinetic parameters of praziquantel will be studied in preschool and school-age children infected withSchistosoma mansoni and S. haematobium, using dried blood spotting technology. The metabolic consequences and clearance of praziquantel treatment will also be assessed in S. mansoni-infected mice and S. mansoni- and S. haematobium-infected children.