Who We Are

NGDI Member Funding of over $4,000,000

WelTel Retain: Promoting Engagement in pre-ART HIV care through SMS

Dr. Richard Lester and the WelTel team have been awarded a $545,361 grant over 3 years from the US National Institutes of Health.  

The program’s long-term research goal is to capitalize on the almost ubiquitous use of cellular phones to implement a sustainable mHealth service that improves health outcome and engagement in care. In Kenya (WelTel Kenya1), a weekly short message service (SMS) text message led to improved ART adherence and viral load suppression. This study, WelTel Retain, will evaluate the effect of WelTel on retaining pre-ART patients in care and determine the cost effectiveness of the intervention.

Specific Aims:
1) To determine if the WelTel SMS intervention improves patient retention in the first stage of HIV care.
2) To determine whether the WelTel SMS intervention improves 12-month retention.
3) To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the WelTel SMS intervention.

Maternal-Infant Microbiome and Immunity (MIMI) Network

Dr. Tobias Kollman, and co-investigators Dr. Gregory Gloor, and Dr. Gregor Reid have received a three year funding award from the CIHR Network Catalyst – Infection and Immunity program.  The $600,000 will establish the Maternal-Infant Microbiome and Immunity Network (MIMI). This network is centered on how the microbiome and immune system interact in the mother and child, as the mother is the initial source of the child’s microbiome. MIMI will formalize the collaboration of three groups with ex pertise logy, maternal health and probiotics, and DNA sequencing and data analysis. By bringing these groups with complementary expertise together, MIMI will amplify each group’s strength, build research capacity in the field of microbiome analysis, and to transfer knowledge and thus inform maternal and child health policy.  T

The study of the microbiome and its importance is described here:
There are ten times as many bacterial cells in our body than human cells. This community of microorganisms (called the microbiome) plays an important role in influencing human health. For example, in our gut, bacteria aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, keeping dangerous microbes in check and directing our defense system’s response. Thus, the understanding of how the microbi ome cont s of great importance. Understanding the human microbiome is a daunting task because of its complexity. First, there are very different communities of bacteria present in different parts of the body. Second, these bacterial communities arise from different initial sources and interact with the human defense system in different ways. Third, the human microbiome is affected by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. Finally, people living in different areas of the world have different bacteria living in and on them. These and other factors require that the study of the microbiome should be approached from a global health perspective.


UBC research receives $2.9 million to improve nutrition of rural Cambodian women and children

The University of British Columbia and Helen Keller International of Cambodia have received $2.9 million from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) for research to increase and diversify food production and nutrition for small, rural households in Cambodia.

The study, led by UBC researchers Tim Green and Judy McLean, will examine how farmers can combine aquaculture and home gardens to produce more affordable and nutritious food and gain the tools they need to improve agricultural practices and nutrition.

This $2.9M project is one of six new projects funded under CIFSRF. A five-year, $62 million initiative, CIFSRF is funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and brings Canadian and developing-country researchers together to improve food security in the developing world.

“Homestead food production has long been promoted as a means to improve nutrition, food security, and livelihoods of poor rural farmers, although a better evidence base is needed,” says Green, who leads the Cambodian study with co-investigator McLean, both from UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems. “Our project in rural Cambodia will be the first to rigorously evaluate the actual impact of women-centered homestead food production models, which will include fish ponds.”

Cambodia produces enough rice to feed its population but maternal and child under-nutrition remains high due to a lack of crop diversity and shortage of nutrient-rich food.

In this project, 600 households, largely headed by women farmers, will raise small nutritious fish for their families in the same ponds as large fish, which will be sold for income. Combined with vegetable and fruit production, the project is expected to help reduce anemia and under-nutrition in a country where one-third of childhood deaths are directly related to under-nutrition and poor feeding practices. It should also increase household food security and incomes.

“We expect that the results of this project can be effectively scaled up and adopted for broader use throughout Asia,” says IDRC President David Malone. “This is very much in keeping with IDRC’s commitment to research that supports development through the practical application of science.”

Today’s funding announcement brings to 19 the number of projects supported under CIFSRF, which includes researchers from 11 Canadian universities and 26 developing-country organizations. It also represents the third and final round of funding announcements in the first phase of CIFSRF, a key component of the Government of Canada’s Food Security Strategy, announced by the Prime Minister at the 2009 G-8 Meeting in L’Aquila, Italy.

International Development Research Centre (IDRC): A key part of Canada’s aid program, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) supports research in developing countries to promote growth and development. IDRC also encourages sharing this knowledge with policymakers, other researchers, and communities around the world. The result is innovative, lasting local solutions that aim to bring choice and change to those who need it most.

 Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA): The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is Canada’s lead agency for development assistance. CIDA’s aim is to manage Canada’s support and resources effectively and accountably to achieve meaningful, sustainable results. It also engages in policy development in Canada and internationally, enabling Canada’s effort to realize its development objectives.


Lead NGDI Project Oral Amphotericin B Receives $1.1 million

UBC drug formulation receives $1.1 million for clinical development as HIV treatment

A drug delivery system developed through the University of British Columbia’s Neglected Global Diseases Initiative and licensed to iCo Therapeutics Inc. will receive $1.1 million from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) for clinical development as a treatment for HIV patients.

The oral drug delivery system of Amphotericin B (Amp B) was originally developed by UBC Pharmaceutical Sciences Profs. Kishor and Ellen Wasan to address challenges associated with existing formulations in treating individuals with visceral leishmaniasis in the developing world.

Recent studies have shown that Oral Amp B can enhance the efficacy of existing HIV therapies such as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART).

While HAART has been successful in managing and stabilizing HIV in patients, the virus can persist by slowly replicating in tissue and blood. These long-lived HIV reservoirs enable long-term persistence of the infection and constitute a major roadblock to the complete eradication of HIV.

Amp B has now been shown to be efficient in “flushing” the virus from the reservoirs and enhancing the effectiveness of existing therapies.

“We are excited about the potential that oral Amp B may have as a treatment for HIV and thank the National Research Council of Canada and iCo Therapeutics for supporting this important technology,” says Kishor Wasan, professor and associate dean of research and graduate studies in the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “This funding represents a significant leap forward in the clinical development of the oral formulation of Amp B.”

“The development of the Oral Amp B technology has profound implications in the quest to find a cure for HIV,” says Andrew Rae, president and CEO of iCo Therapeutics. “We are looking forward to collaborating with UBC and NRC-IRAP on this program and the continued development of the Oral Amp B system.”

BACKGROUND | Oral Amp B as HIV treatment

The $1.1-million support is provided via the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program, which is a part of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative’s Canadian HIV Technology Development Program (CHTD). The Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative (CHVI) is a joint program of the Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Vancouver-based iCo Therapeutics Inc. focuses on reformulating medications with a clinical history for new and expanded indications.

The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC (NGDI-UBC) brings together the technical expertise and perspectives of a variety of disciplines at UBC – including bench science, pharmaceutical and health research, business, social policy, and law – to develop interventions for neglected global diseases and ensure their delivery to those in need.

Dr. Robert Hancock`s Peptide Work May Lead to New Treatment Approach to Malaria

Anti-inflammatory agents developed by UBC microbiologist Robert Hancock, used in combination with anti-malarial drugs, have been shown to boost survival rates of severe malaria by as much as 50 per cent.

Malaria kills up to one million people worldwide every year, particularly children under five and pregnant women, who often develop severe clinical symptoms such as brain damage and multiple organ failure. Up to 25 per cent of severe clinical malaria cases are fatal even with access to the best health care, partly because the parasite triggers inflammation that damages vital organs.

In a study published in the May 24 edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Australia showed that innate defense regulator (IDR) peptides prevented inflammation in the brains of mice with malaria and improved their survival.

IDR peptides were developed by Prof. Hancock and colleagues at UBC as part of an $8.7-million Grand Challenges in Global Health grant led by UBC microbiologist Brett Finlay. The peptides have since been licensed for animal health and approved by Cystic Fibrosis Canada for pre-clinical development as an anti-inflammatory for CF lung infections.

Hancock says the findings support an approach to treating infections called host-directed therapy – intended to target the host and not the parasite.

“One of the major challenges we have in treating infections with antibiotics is that the microbes can evolve and become resistant to the treatment,” says Hancock, Canada Research Chair in Pathogenomics and Antimicrobials and a co-author of the study.

“IDR peptides enhance beneficial aspects of the initial immune response, while dampening harmful inflammation,” says co-author Louis Schofield from WEHI. “IDR peptides are also relatively cheap to produce and easy to use, making them a good option for medical treatments in developing countries.”

Additional stories:


2012 AAPS Pharmaceuticals in Global Health Student Travelships

Sponsored by The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at the University of British Columbia

Deadline for all applicants: July 27, 2012

NGDI-UBC is pleased to offer travelships for eligible students presenting papers at the 2012 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition to be held in Chicago, October 14–18.

  • 4 travelships for graduate/undergraduate students presenting papers pertaining to Pharmaceuticals in Global Health
  • The award consists of: $750 for all students

Eligibility Criteria

Recipients will be selected from all applicants that meet the following eligibility requirements:

  1. Currently enrolled as a full-time student
  2. Member of AAPS since March 2012 or earlier
  3. First author of an accepted abstract pertaining to Pharmaceuticals in Global Health
  4. Have the paper accepted by one of the nine AAPS sections for presentation at the 2012 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition to be held in Chicago (October 14–18) where the student will be presenting
  5. Have no other means of supplemental support to attend the meeting (there will be no way to prove the applicant has supplemental support to attend the meeting; therefore, this sentence will be on no other awards or travelships received from AAPS)
  6. Be present at the Pharmaceuticals in Global Health focus group annual business meeting (date to be announced) in Chicago to the award


Selection Criteria

Applicants whose submitted papers are not accepted by the Paper Screening committee will be removed from the eligible pool before the award selections are made. An award sub-committee assigned by Pharmaceuticals for Global Health focus group chair will perform the selection as follows:

  • Pre-selection of abstracts already accepted by the AAPS screening committees for relevance to Pharmaceuticals in Global Health
  • Make final selection from the short list
  • Only papers pertaining to Global Health will be considered


How to Apply

An AAPS online travelship application form can be accessed and submitted here. Submissions must be no later than July 27, 2012.


The reimbursement will be issued to the selected individuals following the meeting upon receipt of documented meeting expenses (e.g., copy of airline ticket, hotel and meal receipts, etc.).

NGDI-UBC article in the International Pharmacy Journal

An article written by the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the NGDI has recently been published in the International Pharmacy Journal.  The article highlights the influence that pharmacists and the UBC Faculty is having on neglected diseases.  Looking Outward and Forward: Fighting Neglected Disease with Pharmaceutical Science is also highlighted on the cover of this prestigious journal. 

To read the article, please click here.

Update on NGDI – CDRD Partnership: One year later

Fight Against Neglected Global Diseases Moves Another Step Forward Through a Partnership Between CDRD and NGDI-UBC 

VANCOUVER, BC—February 20, 2012: One year after The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) and the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at the University of British Columbia (NGDI-UBC) came together to develop interventions for neglected global diseases, a project to combine existing approved drugs to better treat Tuberculosis (TB) has emerged as the collaboration’s leading prospect.

TB is the second leading cause of death by infectious disease in adults worldwide and it is estimated that one third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Research by UBC’s Drs. Santiago Ramón‐García and Charles Thompson has found a synergistic combination of two known drugs (used for other therapeutic applications but never before to treat TB) capable of inhibiting Mtb growth, while neither of these drugs have any effect on their own against Mtb.

“Although this partnership is still relatively young,” said Dr. Kishor M. Wasan, Director and Co-Founder, NGDI-UBC and Professor and Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, UBC, “it is already proving to be very valuable in this global fight.”

The partnership brings together CDRD’s drug development platform and commercialization know-how with NGDI-UBC’s extensive network of expertise that extends across broad disciplinary boundaries. This partnership thereby augments each organization’s ongoing drug development efforts in partnership with world leading scientists, all with a mind to ensuring reasonable, fair and affordable access for developing countries.

In collaboration with CDRD’s screening division, Drs. Ramón‐García and Thompson introduced the concept of “2+2=16” in TB drug development. They identified 14 combinations of known drugs that acted in synergy when inhibiting Mtb growth in vitro and within macrophages. These were then further analyzed to identify combinations with suitable pharmacokinetic properties. One of them has now been chosen as the lead combination to be taken forward into in vivo proof of concept studies.

“Collaborating with CDRD has provided us with access to a new array of drug development infrastructure and expertise,” said Dr. Ramón‐García. “It has also brought new funding to our research through the CDRD-Pfizer Innovation Fund. Through CDRD, we now have one of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies behind us as a key partner.”

“This project is really just the beginning for the CDRD-NGDI partnership,” said Karimah Es Sabar, Senior Vice President, Business and Strategic Affairs, CDRD. “We have several additional highly-promising projects in the pipeline focused on developing therapies for some of the world’s most devastating illnesses, and we know that more exciting news will soon follow.”

About the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC

The Neglected Global Diseases Initiative at UBC (NGDI-UBC) brings together the technical expertise and perspectives of a variety of disciplines at UBC – including bench science, pharmaceutical and health research, business, social policy, and law – to develop interventions for neglected global diseases and ensure their delivery to those in need. For more information, visit www.ngdi.ubc.ca.

About CDRD

The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD), a national Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR), is a not-for-profit public-private organization that provides drug development expertise and infrastructure to enable researchers from leading academic and health research institutions to advance promising, early-stage drug candidates. CDRD’s network of 20+ affiliated research institutions across Canada represent billions invested in health-related research every year, and CDRD plays a pivotal role in translating that research into commercial products and economic returns including new jobs for British Columbia and Canada. For additional information, visit www.cdrd.ca.


 For additional information, please contact:


Barry Gee
Director, Communications
The Centre for Drug Research and Development
(604) 221-7750 x223


Dr. Kishor Wasan
Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Director and Co-Founder, NGDI-UBC
(604) 822-4889

NGDI associate member receives Grand Challenges grant

WelTel: Moving Evidence to Action for Patient-Centred mHealth from Grand Challenges Canada on Vimeo.

Congratulations to NGDI associate member Richard Lester who received a $100,000 “Rising Star” grant for his project WelTel through Grand Challenges Canada. WelTel: Moving Evidence to Action for Patient-Centred mHealth is a research project which utilizes low-cost cell phone technology to improve HIV/AIDS treatment. The cell phones are adapted to send scheduled reminders to patients with HIV/AIDS, ensuring that they remain on track with their drug therapy. It also allows the patients to address any problems they may be having.

Grand Challenges Canada is a not-for-profit organization that aims to turn bold, innovative research into health solutions. In addition to the WelTel project, around a dozen other Canadian global public health projects were awarded a total of $1.5 million. To view an article in The Province on Richard Lester and fellow UBC researcher and Grand Challenges grant recipient Walter Karlen, click here.

NGDI and SBN Celebrate Research Week

Developing Drugs for Developing Countries

NGDI and The Science Biotechnology Network presents a seminar and poster event in light of Celebrate Research Week. Come listen to Dr. Kishor Wasan of NGDI and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Andrew Rae, President & CEO of iCo Therapeutics, Sonia Zeische, patent agent of Gowling Lafleur Henderson, and Carol Leacy, program director of Entrepreneurship@UBC as they walk students and audience members through the process of moving biotechnology advances in global health, specifically neglected diseases.

Date: March 2, 2012
Time: 4:00 to 6:00pm
Location: Michael Smith Laboratories Auditorium & Multi-Purpose Room

This is a free event. For more information, please see the poster here.

In addition, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is also hosting a seminar event in light of Celebrate Research Week.

Systems Health: Taking personalized medicine beyond the genome

A panel of speakers will discuss how personalized medicine is evolving into a holistic view of health care encompassing a wide range of biological phenomena.

Date: Monday, March 5, 2012
Time:1:00 – 4:00 pm (Reception to follow)
Location:Telus Theatre, The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, 6265 Crescent Rd, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1

Seating is limited; please RSVP by March 2, 2012 to Dr. Barb Conway at baconway@mail.ubc.ca or 604-822-2390. For more information, please see the poster here.

NGDI Distinguished Lectureship Seminar: Dr. Keith Martin

NGDI is pleased to invite you to its fifth lecture in the Distinguished Lectureship Seminar Series. Please come and hear Dr. Keith Martin speak about the work he is doing to bridge the knowledge-action gap in global health. He describes his upcoming talk below:

Bridging the Knowledge-Action Gap: Politics, Partnerships and New Tools to Address the Global Health Challenges of our Time

“We have an abundance of knowledge. Research findings at UBC and beyond can save millions of lives. Yet, there is a gap. A chasm exists between the knowledge we possess and the needs of communities that need this information. A multidisciplinary approach utilizing a broad range of skills and 21st century communication tools can create the partnerships needed to bridge this gap. New partnerships are developing and UBC is ideally poised to maximize its ability to address the global health challenges before us. This talk will focus on how this can be achieved.”

Date: Friday, February 24, 2012
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. (Seminar) / 1:00 — 2:00 p.m. (Reception)
Location:Michael Smith Laboratories Auditorium (Seminar) / MSL Room 226 (Reception), Vancouver Campus

To see the event poster, click here.

Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases

30 January 2012, London     Full press release here.
London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases available here.
Website: Uniting to combat NTDs

Private and Public Partners Unite to Combat 10 Neglected Tropical Diseases by 2020

– Today, 13 pharmaceutical companies, the U.S., U.K. and U.A.E governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and other global health organisations announced a new, coordinated push to accelerate progress toward eliminating or controlling 10 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by the end of the decade.

Uniting efforts with NTD-endemic countries, partners pledged to bring a unique focus to defeating these diseases and to work together to improve the lives of the 1.4 billion people worldwide affected by NTDs, most of whom are among the world’s poorest.

In the largest coordinated effort to date to combat NTDs, the group announced at an event at the Royal College of Physicians that they would: sustain or expand existing drug donation programs to meet demand through 2020; share expertise and compounds to accelerate research and development of new drugs; and provide more than US$785 million to support R&D efforts and strengthen drug distribution and implementation programmes. Partners also endorsed the “London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases,” in which they pledged new levels of collaborative effort and tracking of progress.

“Today, we have joined together to increase the impact of our investments and build on the tremendous progress made to date,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This innovative approach must serve as a model for solving other global development challenges and will help millions of people build self-sufficiency and overcome the need for aid.” The Gates Foundation announced a five-year, US$363 million commitment to support NTD product and operational research.

To guide the effort against NTDs, the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week unveiled a new strategy,  Accelerating work to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases—A roadmap for implementation, that sets targets for what can be achieved by the end of the decade.

“The efforts of WHO, researchers, partners, and the contributions of industry have changed the face of NTDs. These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO. “With the boost to this momentum being made today, I am confident almost all of these diseases can be eliminated or controlled by the end of this decade.”

New commitments from partners will close the funding gap to eradicate Guinea worm disease and expedite progress toward the 2020 goals of elimination for lymphatic filariasis, blinding trachoma, sleeping sickness and leprosy, and control of soil-transmitted helminthes, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis.

Speaking on behalf of the CEOs of the 13 pharmaceutical companies involved, Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, said, “Many companies and organisations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organisation can do it alone. Today, we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future.”

With new and existing pledges totaled, companies will donate an average of 1.4 billion treatments each year to those in need, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). In addition, new research and development collaborative efforts and access agreements with 11 companies and the R&D organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) are providing unprecedented access to compound libraries that could lead to new treatments. These commitments will work in parallel with other efforts to speed the development of critical NTD treatments, including WIPO Re:Search, a database of research compounds, knowledge and expertise.

To close the funding gap for Guinea worm eradication, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, the Gates Foundation, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation will donate US$40 million to The Carter Center. These commitments complement an October pledge from the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) that it would contribute £20 million if others come forward—part of a four-year, £195 million commitment to NTDs announced by DFID last week.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also announced an $89 million appropriation by the U.S. Congress to strengthen drug delivery and distribution programmes, building on its US$212 million investment since 2006. In addition, the World Bank will extend its financing and technical support to help African countries build stronger community health systems that will integrate NTD elimination and control, as well as work with other partners to expand a trust fund to combat river blindness to other preventable NTDs in Africa.

“The world has come together to end the neglect of these horrific diseases which needlessly disable, blind and kill millions of the world’s poorest,” said Stephen O’Brien, U.K. Minister for International Development. “Britain and other partners are leading the way to provide critical treatments to millions of people, which allow children to attend school and parents to provide for their families so that they can help themselves out of poverty and eventually no longer rely on aid.”

Today’s pledges and Declaration come in response to WHO’s 2010 report, Working to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases, which called for new resources to overcome NTDs. Representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, the Gates Foundation and other partners worked during the past year to develop this expanded, coordinated effort.

The governments of Bangladesh, Brazil, Mozambique and Tanzania, where NTDs are endemic, announced that they would implement integrated plans to defeat NTDs and devote political and financial resources to combat these diseases. All partners pledged accountability by exploring mechanisms to regularly track progress toward the 2020 goals.

“From the moment the evidence of the very heavy burden of NTDs in Mozambique was understood, the government of Mozambique has taken action and continuously increased its commitment and investment to control or eliminate these diseases,” said Dr. Alexandre Manguele, Minister of Health of Mozambique. “With the resources pledged today in the context of this partnership the government of Mozambique feels ever more assured that the mission can be accomplished.”

For more information on the specific partner commitments announced today including: sustaining, expanding and extending drug supply; accelerating R&D for new treatments; increasing funding to improve drug product and operational research, delivery and implementation programmes, including prevention, monitoring and education; and coordinating and measuring NTD commitments; download the full press release here.




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