IDRI - Infectious Disease Research Institute

What is a PDP — and Why Does it Matter?

NOTE: this blog comes from an interview conducted with IDRI’s Rob Lin by Claire Topal of the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Around 20 years ago, researchers and funders realized that there was a need to create pdphealth solutions for diseases of the poor in developing countries, and that this need wasn’t necessarily being (or going to be) addressed by pharmaceutical companies given existing market mechanisms. Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) were created as a tool for donors and governments to fund projects that would address some of these inequities and reduce or even remove the risk for pharmaceutical companies to be engaged in the process.

The way PDPs work is similar to drug and vaccine development in the pharmaceutical sector. The main differences are that funding doesn’t come from private sources but rather from public sources—either governments or large foundations—with the goal of developing health solutions for diseases of the developing world that don’t have a large market potential. (more…)

Out of the Classroom and Into the Lab

For the past few years, I have pursued my passion for global health and infectious disease through my interdisciplinary studies at Whitman College. My work at IDRI this summer gave me the invaluable opportunity to apply my knowledge and expand my interests.

As a upcoming senior studying Health Science, Policy and Culture, I’ve focused my studies on the biological, political, economic and cultural factors that influence both the health of individuals as well as populations as a whole. I became particularly interested in vaccine development from taking a course on infectious diseases last fall. During the course, I learned about the components of vaccines and the decisions that go into developing and distributing them. One of the biggest challenges highlighted during the class was the apparent lack of economic incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines and drugs to treat diseases that affect the poor. This is where IDRI comes in. (more…)

Be Very Afraid: the NTDs are Here

Leishmanaisis, a neglected tropical disease, is caused by the bite of a sandfly.

It is very natural to think of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as those that affect far off and exotic populations, places we may never visit and people we may never know. But that myth has been busted by Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute (one of IDRI’s collaborators) Hotez warns that it is the G20 countries that harbor a “lion’s share” of the NTD burden. These diseases are hidden among the extremely poor and marginalized and are largely hidden from most authorities.

Take the example of visceral leishmaniasis (VL), the deadliest among the NTDs. India accounts for the highest global burden of VL concentrated in its poorest state, while Brazil accounts for the most complex spread of VL, from a strictly rural to a peri-urban localization. For those who ask why we in the U.S. must worry about other G 20 countries, here comes the shock: in the Southern states of the U.S. live at least 12 million people exposed to one or more tropical diseases, including NTDs such as Chagas disease and cutaneous leishmaniasis, parasitic worm infections and emerging vector-borne diseases like chikungunya. Though location, climate, vectors and immigration have contributed to some incidence, one factor that ties the people from India, Brazil and the U.S. to the unfortunate masses in sub-Saharan Africa is poverty. (more…)

Can Bees Help Detect Tuberculosis?

The comedian Eddie Izzard once suggested that wasps might be more popular with the general public if they did something useful. Bees are generally liked since they pollinate flowers and make honey, but wasps do nothing but sting people. Perhaps if wasps made jam (known as jelly in the U.S.), they might be more universally liked. Having bad memories of wasps from my childhood, I empathize with the idea.

It turns out bees could be even more useful to us. A surprising area in which bees are being considered is in the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB). When people get TB, the bacteria multiply in the lung, and produce a number of volatile molecules that can be found in the exhaled breath – and it so happens that these can be detected, even at low concentrations, by bees. Researchers trained bees to recognize one of these molecules and to respond by sticking out their tongues (honestly!). This simple trick could be developed into a rapid and less invasive diagnostic than blood samples or sputum. (more…)

Summer Internship Helps Guide Future

IDRI intern Allison Good with her mentor Sandra Sivananthan.

NOTE: Each summer, IDRI welcomes a number of college interns as part of our commitment to train scientists of the future. This year, Allison Good, a student at Whitman College, is spending her summer at IDRI.

My summer internship at IDRI has been incredibly rewarding. I have greatly enjoyed learning more about the process of vaccine development and being part of the amazing team that makes up this nonprofit organization focused on infectious diseases. I also found it very rewarding to know that the research I am conducting is aimed at addressing health issues of global importance.

While at IDRI, I worked in the Formulations Department under the supervision of Sandra Sivananthan, a Process Development Associate. Prior to coming to IDRI, I knew very little about formulations, but now understand just how critical a role formulations play in the drug development process. During my internship, I primarily worked on two different projects. My first project involved the development and optimization of liposomes. I also worked on modifying a lipid extraction method to prepare samples for quantification. Through these projects, I was able to both reinforce concepts I had previously learned in my academic science classes and learn variety of new concepts and techniques, ranging from formulation development to analytical chemistry. (more…)

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