Knocking Them Dead in the Tropics

CURING SYSTEMIC FUNGAL AND PARASITIC INFECTIONS WITH A TROPICALLY STABLE ORAL FORMULATION OF AMPHOTERICIN B

Open sores, mucosal ulcers, swollen livers, fever—even death. All this, just from the bite of one measly sandfly. But it’s no small issue: in developing countries in tropical regions, more than two million people are infected every year with leishmaniasis, a fungal infection that’s transmitted by infected female sandflies. Even in developed countries, these kinds of fungal infections are leading contributors to death among immunocompromised people (e.g. patients with cancer or AIDS).

Enter Dr. Kishor Wasan, adjunct professor and distinguished university scholar at UBC, who worked long and hard to develop an orally administered form of amphotericin B that would remain stable in tropical conditions. Vancouver company iCo Therapeutics Inc. has now partnered with UBC to advance Dr. Wasan's formulation of amphotericin B for the treatment of leishmaniasis and other fungal infections. Current work sees the formulation being developed so that it can be taken orally without serious side effects. Oral dosing offers a significant improvement on the current treatment, which is expensive, highly toxic, and can only be administered by injection. An advancement like this makes the technology ideal for application in the developing world. UBC’s commercialization agreement with iCo ensures that development of this amphotericin B formulation will support our global access objectives.

Since entering into this partnership:

  • iCo has announced positive preclinical data relating to orally administered amphotericin B;
  • the formulation has been licensed from UBC; 
  • researchers observed significant antifungal activity at dosage levels where no kidney toxicity was noted;
  • the formulation displayed dramatic knock-down of a parasitic infection that causes visceral leishmaniasis, showing greater than 99% eradication of parasitic infection at the tested dosages;
  • in April 2009, iCo and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) established the Research Chair in Drug Delivery for Neglected Global Diseases, and instated Dr. Kishor Wasan as Chair; and 
  • in September 2009, iCo entered a partnership with Gates Foundation funding recipients The Consortium for Parasitic Drug Development, with initial funding targeted at formulation optimization for tropical conditions.