The new grant will extend a decade of work by Tidwell and his colleagues. In 1990, their research supported by the National Institutes of Health showed that drugs synthesized to fight AIDS-related infections were effective against sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis. The discovery by Tidwell and Dr. David Boykin of Georgia State University led to further experiments with a drug compound called DB 289. That compound allows medication to be orally absorbed and converted to an active state through the body's normal enzyme systems.
The UNC-CH team developed and patented the compound, which the university has licensed to Immtech. The firm already has received approval to begin the first phase of human clinical trials for DB 289 as an anti-infective drug to treat pneumocystis carinnii pneumonia, an opportunistic fungal infection that is potentially fatal in immune-suppressed patients. That study is being conducted by Parexel International in Berlin, Germany, and, to date, has not turned up any evidence of even moderate side effects.
"We are encouraged that the initial research effort has identified a lead drug that is an excellent candidate for treating African sleeping sickness and we plan to begin advanced trials of this drug next year in Africa," said T. Stephen Thompson, president and chief executive officer of Immtech.
Although DB 289 in its present form does not appear to be effective against leishmaniasis, the new grant also will permit the consortium to continue searching for new drugs to treat that disease. Several dru
Contact: Mike McFarland
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill