New drug discovery project tackles neglected tropical disease

7 February 2018
A drug discovery project launched late yesterday will take an open source approach to discover compounds that could lead to treatment for a neglected tropical infectious disease which causes devastating deformities.

The Mycetoma Open Source (MycetOS) project was launched by the University of Sydney, ErasmusMC and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) to help find compounds that could lead to the treatment of fungal mycetoma. Current treatments are ineffective, expensive and toxic.

As a first step, the global scientific community is invited to review the manuscript Analogues of fenarimols as novel drug candidates for mycetoma, recently submitted with a full dataset to bioRxiv, an open access biology preprint server, for review and comment by interested scientists. The manuscript shares results of early work to screen 800 diverse, drug-like molecules for active compounds against the causative pathogen of eumycetoma. Yielding several promising new hits, these results and their associated data are the starting point for the MycetOS community.

MycetOS will progress drug discovery efforts through community-driven, in-kind scientific contributions and a robust, fully transparent online presence. All ideas and results will be published immediately in real time to an open-access database. It will communicate via Twitter. A dedicated subreddit forum will also be used for transparent interactive discussion, and github will be used to share data and key project files.

“We invite anyone interested to review not only the manuscript but also the dataset, and to join this Open Pharma drug discovery project for mycetoma,” said Dr Mat Todd, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. “Forward movement of the work looks to the participation of interested researchers and others. This is already happening successfully with a previous Open Pharma project, Open Source Malaria."

Dr Mat Todd in an office with Hung Duong, the Honours student who worked on the project and is a co-author on the paper

Dr Mat Todd with co-author and Honours student Hung Duong. 



The manuscript on the findings of the screening effort was co-authored by early MycetOS participants from the University of Sydney, Erasmus MC, and DNDi, and by partners at the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), which provided the molecules for screening from their Stasis and open access Pathogen Boxes.

“While MycetOS was developed by participants from the University of Sydney, Erasmus MC and DNDi, it is not ‘owned’ by any of us,” said Wendy van de Sande, Associate Professor, Erasmus MC. “This early work merely starts a process of discovering potential new chemical entities for eumycetoma, and we invite anyone interested to identify how they might contribute and participate as an equal partner in this search for a new treatment for this most neglected of tropical diseases.”

About eumycetoma

Eumycetoma is a neglected tropical infectious disease, primarily endemic in Africa, that attacks the skin, deep muscle and bone, causing devastating deformities that frequently result in amputation and permanent disability. The current antifungal treatment is neither safe, nor effective (having only a 25-35 percent cure rate), nor affordable. The median treatment duration is 12 months, and the treatment costs more than many local people can afford. An effective, safe, affordable and shorter-term curative treatment that is appropriate for rural settings is urgently needed.


Vivienne Reiner

PhD Candidate and Casual Academic

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