Japan’s Astellas Pharma has signed an agreement with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to collaborate on drug discovery research for three neglected tropical diseases: leishmaniasis, Chagas disease and sleeping sickness.

The agreement is “a first critical step in Astellas’ new strategy to enter into the field of NTDs, with DNDi as its first partner”, the two parties noted.

The collaboration involves Astellas providing DNDi with an unspecified selection of original compounds for screening at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. DNDi is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The pharmaceutical profiles of these compounds have already been explored in preclinical and/or clinical research at Astellas.

DNDi will reprofile the compounds to test for anti-protozoan activity and assess their potential as candidate anti-protozoans for the three targeted diseases.

This joint research approach should enable the early entry into development of new potential agents if promising compounds are identified as therapeutic candidates, noted Dr Shin-ichi Tsukamoto, senior vice president of Astellas Drug Discovery Research.

DNDi was set up as a not-for-profit research and development organisation in 2003 by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil, the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and France’s Pasteur Institute.