News Feature | March 24, 2014

Astellas Announces $1.86M Grant For Praziquantel Research

By Estel Grace Masangkay

Astellas announced that the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, an international non-profit public-private partnership launched in 2012, has been awarded a prestigious research grant worth $1.86 million from the Japanese Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund.

The research award and grant recognizes the importance of development and registration of a new formulation for praziquantel, what Astellas calls the current “gold standard treatment” for schistosomiasis.

Annalisa Jenkins, Chair of the Consortium Board and Head of Global R&D at Merck Serono, said, “GHIT grants are awarded on the basis of a highly competitive, double peer review process, which underlines the importance of a newly developed praziquantel pediatric medication for millions of infected children in the developing world. We very much look forward to working with the GHIT Fund and are grateful for its support in addressing the global health burden that schistosomiasis represents.”

Current treatment for schistosomiasis entails the oral intake of large, bitter tablets suitable for both adults and children from the age of six. Younger patients are often hampered to take treatment because of missing clinical data and the tablets’ size and taste. Astellas Pharmaceuticals played a pivotal role in developing new oral dispersible praziquantel candidates made especially for very young pediatric patients.

Kazuhiro Sako, fellow Consortium Board member and Vice President Pharmaceutical Research and Technology Labs at Astellas Pharma, said, “The newly developed tablet has been reduced to a quarter of the size of the current commercial praziquantel tablet to swallow easily. We designed it to be oral dispersible so that it can be taken with or without water, allowing treatment, in principle, of very young children, including infants from three months onwards… A major challenge, which required a great deal of effort, was to reduce the bitter taste but at the same time keep the formulation straightforward and robust, to allow future local manufacturing and storage in endemic countries.”

The grant will support the Consortium’s clinical development program of a newly developed formulation intended for very young pediatric patients, including infants and toddlers, infected with the disease. One of the praziquantel candidates can now be taken to Phase II clinical stage thanks to the fund, says Astellas.