Neglected Tropical Diseases

Research Projects

Neglected Tropical Diseases
HIV/AIDS, Malaria & Tuberculosis
Other Diseases & Conditions
Antibiotic Resistance, Vaccines & Diagnostics
Health Policy


Jennifer Love

Synthesis of K777:
Chagas’ disease is the leading cause of heart failure in Latin America. Existing treatments for this disease have low efficacy and unacceptable side effects. Thus, a critical need exists for drug development. Cruzain, the major cysteine protease of the causative organism Trypanosoma cruzi, is an optimal biological target for Chagas disease. K777 has shown exceptional activity against cruzain, but existing its synthesis is inefficient and is not readily amenable to analogue synthesis. We have developed a reaction that should provide a more convenient, cheaper route to K777 and analogues. One targeted analogue can potentially be generated using a chemical that is 200x cheaper than that for K777.

Cysteine Protease Inhibitors:
Cysteine protease inhibitors have significant potential for use as therapeutics for parasitic diseases. Vinyl sulfones have been demonstrated to be an effective class of cysteine protease inhibitors with exceptional selectivity for protozoan cysteine proteases. We have developed methodology that greatly improves access to a wide range of vinyl sulfones. We anticipate that this methodology will be broadly applicable for the synthesis of potential drugs for the treatment malaria, Chagas’ disease, leishmaniasis and African sleeping sickness.


Jerry Spiegel

Meeting capacity-building and scaling-up challenges to sustainably prevent and control dengue in Machala, Ecuador:
This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness, cost and acceptability of an Eco-Bio-Social approach to controlling and preventing Dengue in Ecuador, in comparison to traditional insecticide-based control programs. Dengue is a neglected mosquito-borne viral disease, for which there is no vaccine. The Eco-Bio-Social approach includes a school-based anti-dengue education campaign, a safe water storage and clean patio community campaign and anti-dengue community workshops. Universidad Andina de Simon Bolivar will collaborate with UBC, BCCDC and the Universidad Tecnica de Machala to undertake this project funded by the WHO TDR Special Programme for Research on Diseases of Poverty. Kendra Foster, a UBC PhD student has received a 3 year Best & Banting graduate scholarship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to work on the project for her dissertation.


Kishor Wasan

Oral Formulation of Amphotericin B:
Vancouver company, iCo Therapeutics Inc., has partnered with UBC to advance Dr. Kishor Wasan’s new formulation of Amphotericin B for the treatment of leishmaniasis and other fungal infections. In developed countries, fungal infections are a leading contributor to death among immunocompromised individuals (e.g. cancer and AIDS patients). In the developing world, leishmaniasis is contracted by 2 million people a year. Dr. Wasan’s formulation, being developed to be taken orally without serious side-effects, will be a significant improvement on the current treatment which is expensive, can only be administered by injection and is highly toxic. This makes the technology ideal for application in the developing world, and our commercialization agreement with iCo ensures that development of the formulation will embrace our global access objectives.

Since entering into this partnership: iCo announced positive preclinical data relating to the oral amphotericin formulation licensed from UBC. Significant antifungal activity was seen at dosage levels where no kidney toxicity was observed, and the formulation displayed a dramatic knock-down of a parasitic infection that causes Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL), with 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 held by Dr. Kishor Wasan. 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.

Soil Transmitted Helminthes

Colby Zaph

Research Interests:
Soil-transmitted helminths (worms) are the most prevalent infectious microorganisms of humans, with approximately two billion people infected. Trichuris is a soil-transmitted nematode parasite that infects humans and animals. Resistance to re-infection is acquired with age and is associated with the expression of CD4+ T helper 2 (TH2) cytokines. Anti-helminthic treatment is effective but provides only a short-term benefit due to the stability of infective nematode eggs in the environment. Thus, problems of repeated infections, coupled with increasing cases of drug resistance and growing costs of developing new chemotherapeutic agents, dictate an increasing requirement for long-term immunological intervention strategies. My research focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of protective immune responses during infection with Trichuris.

Olga Pena

Accessible Science Initiative (ASI) is a student led, non-for-profit organization from the University of British Columbia (UBC) located in Vancouver, Canada, working under the umbrella of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC and with the support of faculty members from a variety of disciplines at the university. Their mission is based in three pillars:

To generate science (hands-on/training courses) projects in primary, secondary schools and universities, using culturally relevant topics that awake a passion for science and encourage the engagement towards careers in the basic and health sciences.

To promote the importance of science literacy and research, through general public activities, in order to show how this can have a positive impact in the quality of life.

Technical Support
To collect and disseminate new and gently used scientific instruments, materials, and equipment of vital need for the development of science education and research projects in low-income schools and universities. Similarly, to collect books and scientific journals that will help existing research groups stay up-to-date in their research areas.

Exchange of Knowledge
To encourage UBC scientists to share their knowledge and collaborate with their respective colleagues in developing countries. Similarly, UBC undergraduates, graduates students and alumni can join this initiative by bringing their knowledge and expertise to the developing world, either in person or through electronic contact, helping teachers or scientific research groups in these regions reach their goals.

To disseminate information about the different programs (Scholarships, Grants, Travel Awards) offered by governments or institutions for undergraduate and graduate students from developing countries to pursue science research internships in North American universities.

To advocate for open access publishing in science, allowing knowledge to be equally accessible for those in developing countries.