Medicines have been in existence since the dawn of humanity. In the start, there were only simple and traditional ways to cure the ailments such as the crude extracts from the plants and the spiritual ways. These used these extracts from different plants such as gum Arabic, aloe, lavender, gingko, bitter melon, and many others to treat a different kind of ailments such as pain, fever, and others.
But since the dawn of the new era, there have been a lot of advancements in this field. Because of the latest technologies, resources and a better understanding of the diseases and their possible outcomes and preventive measures, a lot of new medicines have been introduced to the world. This is an ever-evolving field and new advancements keep happening because of a number of reasons.
Reasons for the newest medicine research
On a daily basis, a new drug or a better alternative of a drug is introduced to the world because of the following reasons.
The reasons given here are just some of the many reasons that encourage the introduction of new medicine.
Why is there a need for the new medicine?
Field of medicine has gotten so vast in the past few decades but as this field advances, there have been increased rates of onset of the new diseases. A number of diseases that were life-threatening before such as malaria, polio, viral infections, and many others have either been eradicated from most of the planet or have medicine that is a 100% effective in treating them. But the new diseases that were unheard of before came into existence or the pre-existing diseases got much worse and mortality rates increased due to these diseases. Some of the examples of these diseases are:
These and many other deadly diseases have left no option for the scientists but to find a cure for them using the newest technology and the most advanced research tools and equipment.
Latest advances in medicine research
According to a recent study, it has been estimated that the FDA approved more than 500 new medicines for use after the year 2000. Some of the recent and key advances in the medical field are given here below.
Gene therapy is a process in which modifications in the patient’s hereditary material i.e. DNA are done. The drugs that are used on a daily basis often treat the symptoms of the diseases or cure them for a short time and after that, the disease comes back. But with gene therapy modifications at the DNA level happen and the diseases are cured by eradicating the basic cause by its roots.
Gene therapy is a promising option to treat different types of cancer such as breast cancer, leukemia and other diseases such as sickle cell anemia and skin disorders.
3D printing technologies
3D printing is one of the most promising fields that will make scientists able to explore new ways in medical research. Using this technology, artificial body parts will be made that will work just like the original body parts. It has been in the news that an artificial ear has been introduced to the world that works using the same mechanism that our body uses and an artificial liver plant is expected to come into existence by 2020.
Medicines to cure hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is considered as one of the life-threatening diseases and around 12,000 people die every year because of this disease. There are drugs that can cure these diseases, but they are much expensive and require an extensive period of treatment and have side effects that are very undesirable. A new drug by the name Sofosbuvir has been introduced into the market which is supposed to cure Hepatitis C completely with little side effects.
Research in antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is one of the major problems of the current time and drugs already present are unable to cure infections caused by them such as gut infections and respiratory infections. A new class of antibiotic drugs has been introduced in the market which has been named Teixobactin. This class has proven efficient in completely eradicating the resistant bacterial classes such as MRSA and completely curing the diseases like tuberculosis and septicemia.
All of the above and many other types of research such as hormone replacement therapy, transplants, and stem cell research are being done to enhance the quality of life. These advancements are thought to be able to treat untreatable conditions such as cancer and find new options for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Drug development is a process in which the newest and the latest drugs are formulated according to the need of the time. These drugs are meant for the most lethal, most prevalent and most common diseases. Drug development is a sequential process and developing a new drug or updating the ones that are already in the market takes a lot of time.
Although Africa was not participating actively in the past in drug development due to their financial crisis and many other reasons such as politics, now this continent is considered as the new frontier in this field. Africa has been playing a remarkable role in drug development and is still one of the leading continents in this regard. Due to the prevalence of a lot of diseases such as cholera, malaria, HIV/AIDS, strokes, and many others, Africa has taken an active part in the newest medicine research.
Drug development in Africa in the past
As it is told above, Africa has not been taking an active part in drug development in the past due to a list of reasons. In the past, African countries were struggling with their own problems so they didn’t give much attention to drug development. These problems still exist in these countries but they are diverting their attention more towards this ever-evolving field.
In the past, medicinal plants were the main sources of drugs for different types of diseases and ailments. They didn’t have access to the drugs from the rest of the world, so they relied mostly on these medicinal plants. Due to their low economy, they couldn’t afford the newest medicines and they didn’t have any option but to consult to the practitioners in their local areas. These practitioners were the most suitable and most affordable options for them.
Africa didn’t participate in the drug development field due to:
There were a number of plants that have been used as the basic and most accessible options for treatment purposes. These medicinal plants are still in use and many people rely on it.
Medicinal plants used in Africa
Here is a list of some medicinal plants that were used in the past and are still in use.
All of the above and many other medicinal plants have been used and are still in use as traditional medicine for different conditions such malaria, bacterial infections, injuries, HIV/AIDS and many other life-threatening diseases.
Historical references of Africa in drug development
In the last 200 years, the concept of western medicine has taken its flight to the current level. Before this, only the traditional plants and other sources were used as medicine. The medicinal plants that have been used in the past practice were adopted according to the latest requirements and the newest medicine came into existence with the help of those plants. Same happened with African countries too, but the evolution in the medical field came a little late to this continent. Some references of the physicians or medical experts and medical scientists can be found in the literature. Some of these references are provided here.
All of the above researchers and physicians worked really hard for the African community and their well-being but there was still a need of latest and most effective medicines.
Current status of drug development in Africa
It was because of the many epidemics and a lot of persistent diseases that African countries felt the need for the latest technology for drug development. After 1990, the newest technologies were being used by the researchers to develop new drugs for themselves and for the rest of the world. Institutions such as the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and African academy are leading the frontier and new drugs are being developed in Africa.
Darmstadt, Germany, November 19, 2017 – Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced that a research agreement has been signed with the University of Cape Town (UCT) South Africa to co-develop a new R&D platform aimed at identifying new lead programs for potential treatments against malaria, with the potential to expand it to other tropical diseases.
Combining Merck’s R&D expertise and the drug discovery capabilities of the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, the collaboration will conduct drug discovery research with the goal of developing anti-malarial drug candidates using Merck’s compound library.
“This strategic collaboration shows the significant commitment of Merck to provide access to medicines for underserved populations, while creating a potential long-term alliance for generating new drugs to treat infectious diseases,” said Beatrice Greco, Head of Malaria and Diagnostics – Global Health R&D, within the biopharmaceutical business of Merck. “UCT’s H3D is a centre of excellence for research and innovation with an already strong track record in malaria drug discovery—we are honoured to be entering into a collaboration with this renowned institution.”
Merck has a dedicated Global Health R&D group working to address key unmet medical needs related to infectious diseases, such as schistosomiasis and malaria, with a focus on pediatric populations in developing countries. Its approach is based on public-private partnerships and collaborations with leading global health institutions and organizations in both developed and developing countries.
“The vision of H3D is to be the leading organisation for integrated drug discovery and development on the African continent. Working with partners like Merck is critical to build up a comprehensive pipeline to tackle malaria and related infectious diseases,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, Director of the H3D centre. “We look forward to working with the Merck team to set up a solid drug discovery platform, with an initial focus on malaria.”
Merck, within the scope of its responsible corporate governance, is committed to improving access to health for underserved populations in low-and middle-income countries. Health, along with environment and culture, represent Merck’s strategic spheres of activities that are part of the company’s Corporate Responsibility Strategy.
Merck has delivered healthcare services in Africa since 1897. With a population rising faster than in any other global market and a growing middle class, the company is increasingly tapping into the continent’s innovative spirit to create health awareness and help respond to unmet medical needs. The Group’s Executive Board is visiting 10 African countries this week to underscore its commitment and the rising importance of the continent. Among other activities, Merck seeks to start local production of the diabetes treatment Glucophage in Algeria, inaugurate an office in Nigeria and start the sale of its Muse cell analyzer to detect HIV.
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About the University of Cape Town’s H3D
H3D was founded in 2010 at UCT, the oldest university in South Africa and consistently highest-ranked African university. H3D officially opened its doors in April 2011, with the goal of creating the leading drug discovery and development platform in Africa. H3D is Africa’s first modern fully integrated drug discovery centre and the only one of its kind on the continent. The vision of H3D is to deliver clinical candidates for communicable and non-communicable diseases where there is an unmet medical need. In 2012 the first compound discovered by H3D in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) was approved by MMV as a preclinical anti-malarial development candidate and has completed Phase I human trials. Under the directorship of Professor Kelly Chibale, the group has been active in malaria and tuberculosis drug discovery for the last four years and is now expanding into other therapeutic areas such as helminths (parasitic worms), cardiovascular disease and fibrosis. It currently comprises 50 scientific staff members in the areas of medicinal chemistry, biology as well as Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics. H3D has state-of-the-art laboratories and has the necessary infrastructure to conduct integrated drug discovery projects to deliver clinical candidates.
Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 40,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2014, Merck generated sales of € 11.3 billion in 66 countries.
Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, EMD Millipore and EMD Performance Materials.
Today 193 countries will sign a landmark declaration agreeing to combat the biggest risk to modern medicine – antimicrobial resistance – at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The historic agreement follows a worldwide campaign led by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to highlight the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance.
Drug-resistant infections pose the biggest threat to modern medicine. Currently it is estimated that more than 700 000 people die annually due to drug-resistant infections such as TB, HIV and malaria. Due to the lack of global data, it is feared that the real number is likely to be far higher. By 2050, if left unchecked, drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year and will cost the worldwide economy $100 trillion. Chemotherapy would not be possible and even simple surgeries, such as hip operations, could be become life threateningly dangerous.
Every signatory has agreed that drug resistant infections must be tackled as a priority.
The nations have committed to develop surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals; encourage innovative ways to develop new antibiotics, and improve rapid diagnostics; and engage in awareness-raising activities to educate health professionals and the public on how to prevent drug-resistant infections.
The Wellcome Trust’s director, Dr Jeremy Farrar, said: “Drug resistant infections do not respect international borders and to tackle this problem we need all nations to be on board. Each and every country must now identify what actions they can take to address drug resistance.”
UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) is one of five drug research institutions that have been selected to participate in the research project.
“It is a significant coup for H3D and UCT to have this kind of recognition on a global scale”, said Professor Kelly Chibale, director of UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre.
Several of the participating groups are already meeting to synergise opportunities, avoid duplication of research efforts, share information and coordinate their high-level objectives.
The University of Cape Town’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre, H3D, has entered into a strategic partnership with Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), aimed at jointly identifying and addressing the unique issues of advanced drug development in Africa.
“Defeating tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases of impact in Africa is one of the greatest public health challenges facing humankind today. We need to reach a level of innovation and collaboration that has never been achieved before in Africa” said Professor Kelly Chibale, Founder and Director of H3D.
“Our partnership with Janssen represents exactly the kind of commitment required to achieve the next breakthroughs and deliver new medicines to millions of people threatened by these diseases” said Chibale, who is also the founding director of the South African Medical Research Council Drug Discovery and Development Research Unit at UCT.
The collaboration with Janssen will focus on the continuum of early drug development ranging from formulation and metabolism to early clinical development. It will match researchers and functional experts at H3D and UCT with counterparts at Janssen.
The partnership was announced at the official launch of Johnson & Johnson’s Global Public Health (GPH) Strategy and New GPH Operations in Africa in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“Together, we will build on the inspiring mission and remarkable progress of our strategic partners to focus our efforts on the discovery and development of new treatments that address the needs of Africans” said Dr Wim Parys, Global Head of Global Public Health Research & Development, Janssen.
“Through our collaboration with the University of Cape Town and its world-class drug development centre, we have the unique opportunity to combine our strengths and expertise to expand the science of drug development by understanding some of the key regional and disease factors which can affect drug disposition, safety and effectiveness applicable to both the African and global populations.”
Chibale said there were considerable benefits for H3D in building a partnership with Janssen. These benefits include access to new chemical matter and having a pharmaceutical industry partner to work with in screening for new drug discovery starting points. This would enable H3D to build a larger portfolio of projects to work on, an essential component for early drug discovery efforts.
“The access to expanded compound collections with Janssen will do much to maintain a fresh pipeline of projects” said Chibale. He said this was one of the key ingredients in developing momentum in building the drug discovery and development industry in Africa.
The expertise of Janssen dovetails with one of H3D’s objectives in understanding how African patient populations metabolise drugs and ensuring that medicines and doses are appropriately developed for patients in Africa. Coupled with the integrated nature of H3D’s state-of-the-art drug discovery platforms, this would give H3D a distinctive ability that does not exist elsewhere in the world.
Professor Danie Visser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UCT, said the partnership was expected to have a reach way beyond the university, as researchers who train at H3D will collaborate with the drug discovery and development industry throughout the African continent.
“In the realm of early clinical development, the UCT Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Clinical Research Centre have become recognized as premier pharmacology units in Africa. Involving Janssen in ‘best practice’ site visits and rotations would afford world-class validation and expansion of UCT’s capabilities in clinical pharmacology” said Visser.
H3D, the first integrated drug discovery and development centre in Africa, which pioneers world-class drug discovery, is known for its breakthrough research on malaria. In 2012 the first compound was approved by Medicines for Malaria Venture as a preclinical, anti-malarial development candidate. It has now completed Phase I human trials.
The Universities of Dundee (Scotland) and Cape Town (South Africa) have linked up with the industrial expertise of the pharmaceuticals division of Germany’s Bayer (BAYN: DE), in an effort to develop critically needed new treatments for tuberculosis (TB). The collaboration combines some of the world’s best knowledge on TB biology, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry, with access to an industrial library of chemical compounds.
All three partners in the new collaboration are already members of the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA), a program launched in 2012 and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and which aims to identify novel therapies to reduce significantly the treatment time for TB. The tripartite collaboration between Bayer, the University of Dundee, and the University of Cape Town (UCT) will optimize hits from the Bayer compound library that were identified within the TBDA program, with the goal of developing them into potential preclinical drug candidates.
TB remains one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world. Each year, 1.5 million people globally die from TB (a death every 21 seconds), with over 9 million falling ill from the disease, mainly in developing countries. Although effective, current first-line therapies for TB are considered inadequate owing to the fact that they take up to six months to cure patients. The long treatment regimen contributes to high rates of treatment default, leading to increased disease transmission, drug resistance, and death.
DDU and H3D funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee and UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) are two of the leading centers in academia for drug discovery globally, particularly relating to diseases across the developing world. Both are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with DDU additionally funded by the Wellcome Trust. Notably, scientists at both DDU and H3D recently announced the separate discovery of new antimalarial compounds.
“TB is one of the world’s biggest killers, particularly across the developing world, and there is a pressing need to find improved drugs to tackle the disease” said Dr Simon Green of the Drug Discovery Unit at the University of Dundee.
“The collaboration with UCT and Bayer will expand our TB effort, taking us from early stage drug discovery to more advanced design, synthesis and testing to identify potential drug candidates” said Professor Paul Wyatt, Director of the Drug Discovery Unit.
In addition to H3D, UCT is home to the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) which, since its establishment in 2005, has attained a reputation as a global leader in TB and HIV research with an extensive network of national and international collaborations. The partnership with Bayer and Dundee will rely on the Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit (MMRU) – which is funded by the South African Department of Science and Technology and the South African Medical Research Council, among others – for TB biology assays and expertise.
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