Texas Biomed receives $2 million award for Chagas disease identification project

The Texas Biomedical Research Institute announced on Monday that it will receive $2 million as part of an identification project to determine treatment efficacy for Chagas disease.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative received a $3 million award from the Wellcome Trust, approximately $2 million of which will go to Texas Biomed as the subcontractor for the project.

There are currently no easy-to-use or reliable tests currently available to determine if Chagas patients are rid of the parasite following treatment.

"We established the monkey model for research on Chagas disease because progress has been extremely slow in developing candidate treatments for it, and even slower in developing ways to assess the efficacy of candidate treatments," John L. VandeBerg, the chief scientific officer of Texas Biomed, said. "The research supported by this grant will greatly enhance our capacity to assess the efficacy of existing candidate treatments for Chagas disease, as well as those that will be developed in the future."

The award will fund a large-scale study that looks into the treatment of non-human primates naturally infected with the Chagas disease parasite Trypansoma cruzi. The researchers will use the study to determine if polymerase chain reaction tests and other diagnostics can measure parasitological cure in an accurate manner.

"We need to be able to tell patients whether or not their treatment has worked," Graeme Bilbe, DNDi's research and development director, said. "The results of this study could encourage treating more patients now, with what we have, and facilitate future clinical trials of new treatments for chronic Chagas disease patients."

Chagas disease infects approximately eight million people and kills 12,000 annually. Approximately 100 million people are at risk of contracting the disease.