“New treatments are needed because the existing drugs are not completely effective and have side effects that limit their use,” said Siekierka. Determining the means by which parasites – such as Brugia malayi, the parasitic worm responsible for elephantiasis in South and Southeast Asia -- avoid host immune responses, can potentially lead to effective new therapeutic treatments.
The Sokol Institute and CGH recently renewed a formal agreement to fund this research for another year.
“We are collaboratively investigating inhibition of a parasitic protein kinase for potential treatment of lymphatic filariasis,” explained Siekierka. In addition to Celgene Global Health, University researchers are working with the Filiariasis Research Reagent Resource Center (FR3) at the University of Georgia and Drugs for Neglected Diseases, Inc. in Switzerland to find an effective new treatment for lymphatic filariasis.
Siekierka’s team had previously identified a protein kinase that the Brugia malayi worm needs to protect itself from destruction by the host’s immune system. By inhibiting this protein kinase, the parasite would succumb to host immunological attack and die.
“We have identified molecules that are now being investigated in a variety of animal models of these diseases and we have also screened new molecules and are in the process of characterizing their activity against the parasite,” he said. “The research focus is expanding beyond a single potential kinase target to include others.”