GHIT Fund Announces New Investments: A Total of 750 Million Yen in Drugs for Malaria and Chagas Disease, Vaccine for Malaria, and Diagnostics for Tuberculosis
The Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund announced today a total of approximately 750 million yen (US$6.6 million*) to invest in six partnerships to develop new lifesaving drugs for malaria and Chagas Disease, a vaccine for malaria, and diagnostics for tuberculosis (TB).** (Appendix 1 & 2)
“We are pleased to announce our new investments in diagnostics for tuberculosis, a vaccine and drug for malaria, and drug discovery for Chagas diseases,” said GHIT’s acting CEO Kio Yamabe. “Even in the midst of a pandemic, we are committed to advancing product development for patients suffering from neglected diseases by strengthening partnerships with R&D and funding partners.”
A Diagnostic for Tuberculosis
GHIT will invest 83.4 million yen (US$733K) in evaluating the performance of the Lung Flute/Lung Flute ECO to improve sputum-based TB diagnosis primarily in vulnerable groups in a TB-endemic setting. The Lung Flute, invented in the early 2000s, is a positive expiratory pressure (PEP) device that creates sound waves that, when blown, loosens phlegm in the lungs and enables individuals to increase the quantity and quality of sputum they can produce. The Lung Flute ECO is a more recently developed paper-based version of the Lung Flute that is inexpensive enough to be used as a disposable, point-of-care tool to aid in sputum production in low-resource settings.
A Vaccine and Drug for Malaria
GHIT will also invest 469 million yen (US$4.1M) in clinical development of two Placental Malaria (PM) vaccine candidates known as PAMVAC and PRIMVAC. PM constitutes a major health problem, causing an estimated 10,000 maternal and 200,000 infant deaths annually. Animal immunization and clinical trial data and results show lasting immune responses and have demonstrated that both adjuvanted vaccine candidates are safe and well-tolerated. However, further optimization of the current candidates is essential to address emerging different variants. GHIT will make another investment of 83.8 million yen (US$737K) in malaria drug development for a new drug design approach known as PROteolysis-TArgeting Chimeras or PROTACs. PROTACs acts not as an inhibitor of target functions, but as a protein degrader hijacking the proteasome to destroy target proteins.
Chagas Drug Discovery
GHIT will also invest 98.9 million yen (US$870K) in further development of novel anti-Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) drugs acting against the selected target identified in a previous GHIT-invested study:
the T. cruzi autophagy-regulating factor that is essential to the T. cruzi life cycle.
Finally, GHIT will invest 19.9 million yen (US$175K) for drug screening programs. In collaboration with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited will conduct a screening for hit identification for Chagas disease by utilizing their compound libraries.
As of November 4, there are 63 ongoing projects, including 29 discovery, 24 preclinical and 10 clinical trials, in the GHIT portfolio (Appendix 3). The total amount of investments since 2013 is 26.9 billion yen (US$236 million).
* USD1 = JPY¥113.68, the approximate exchange rate on October 29, 2021.
** These awarded projects were selected from a number of proposals to the RFP2021-001 for Target Research Platform, Screening Platform, Hit-to-Lead Platform, and Product Development Platform, which was open for applications from November 2020 to July 2021. The GHIT board conducted in July 2021 approved these new investments.