The global burden of diarrheal disease is significant, with nearly 2 million children dying from it each year. Diarrheal diseases remain a primary cause of youngsters suffering from preventable ailments such as dehydration and hospitalization, with a death toll far exceeding that of tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS combined. Underdeveloped or economically struggling nations experience diarrheal disease at a rate that is second only to pneumonia, claiming the lives of countless children under the age of 5.
In fact, diarrheal disease kills 31,000 kids in week in low-income countries. Those numbers translate to an average of 4,500 children per day – a figure that has its roots in both acute and persistent episodes. Unfortunately, unchecked diarrheal disease can wreak havoc on the victim’s growth, hindering appetite, eating patterns, and nutrient absorption rates. The only good news is that the presence of acute diarrheal disease during the first 2 years of life is not typically connected to a decrease in physical growth, cognitive function, or overall fitness.
The OneWorld Health Response
With a commitment to becoming a thought leader and change agent in the field of diarrheal disease control, the Institute of OneWorld Health has formed a partnership with experts and stakeholders to conduct an exhaustive landscape analysis on the field’s current requirements and setbacks. As a result, OneWorld Health has initiated an engagement of the following professional resources:
- Funding organizations
- Biological companies
- Pharmaceutical corporations
- Policy experts
The mission is to better understand the scope of diarrheal disease. By collaborating with a global community of experts, Iowh plans to develop and implement safe, affordable, and effective medications for its sufferers. The medicines created will complement existing standards-of-care and disease interventions such as ORTs and zinc.
The Roots of the Response
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave OneWorld Health a grant to develop novel anti-secretory drugs in 2006. The drugs were to be used as an adjunct to ORTs to safely reduce stool output and/or decrease the duration of diarrheal episodes. As per the terms of the grant, OneWorld Helath created technical and strategic advisory committees for support during critical phases in the development of new treatments.
Under the guidance of its advisory committees, the company identified several gaps in the regulatory treatment options and targeted components of acute watery diarrhea, persistent diarrhea, and dysentery (bloody stool). In the meantime, OneWorld Health will focus primarily on creating drugs to treat electrolyte loss, a potentially life-threatened side effect of acute watery diarrhea. Further on, the company plans to leverage in-house expertise and collaboration with pharma to promote technical success in the development of new treatments and/or cures for the disease. Finally, OneWorld Health is scheduled to address the unmet needs of anti-microbial therapies.
As the development of new products progresses, the company will then expand its network of partners to foster progressive relationships in the field and to further the community’s goal of reducing diarrheal disease mortality. In 2008, IOWH began a research collaboration with Roche, under which IOWH screened 780,000 molecules from Roche’s compound library. A potential new drug for the treatment of a range of diarrheal diseases was identified. By the following year, IOWH completed its first screening campaign to announce 40 new drug leads that would be selected for further study.
Furthermore, OneWorld Health also signed into a collaboration with Novartis, allowing IOWH access to promising drug candidates that are ready for pre-clinical trials. Joining forces with Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research has also given OneWorld Health the ability to discover new treatments for infection diarrhea via the inhibition of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator chloride channel. Because infectious diarrhea is caused, in many cases, by an over-activation of the CF channel, a channel blocker could be added to the currently available treatments to directly reduce electrolyte and fluid loss.