Campus News

UGA researchers receive $1M to develop crypto treatment

UGA researchers have received $1 million from the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to speed the development of new drugs for the treatment of cryptosporidiosis, a major cause of diarrheal disease and mortality in young children around the world.

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite commonly spread through tainted drinking or recreational water. There is currently no vaccine and only a single drug of modest efficacy available to treat the disease.

“Cryptosporidiosis is a tremendous public health challenge,” said Boris Striepen, Distinguished Research Professor in Cellular Biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a member of UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases. “We are extremely grateful to the trust and the foundation for providing support and leadership to drive a global research agenda to face this challenge.”

Cryptosporidium is notoriously difficult to study in the laboratory, and this has stalled the development of better treatments. But last year, Striepen and his research group created new tools to genetically manipulate the parasite, and his team will use funds from the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to leverage this new technology and speed drug discovery.

The Wellcome Trust’s Pathfinder Award of $244,000 will support a collaboration between UGA and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, a public-private partnership between the pharmaceutical company Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

The primary goal of the joint project is to develop better ways to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs in cell cultures and mice. These tests will be used to discover novel candidate drugs using the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases’ large collection of candidates.

A $775,000 grant from the Gates Foundation will support the development of genetic technology to discover specific drug targets within the parasite, which ultimately will help enhance drug potency and reduce side effects.