The role of modern drug discovery in the fight against neglected and tropical diseases
Neglected and tropical diseases affect a large proportion of the world's population and impose a huge economic and health burden on developing countries. Despite this, there is a dearth of safe, effective, suitable medications for treatment of these diseases, largely as a result of an underinvestment in developing new drugs against these diseases by the majority of research-based pharmaceutical companies. In the past 12 years, the situation has begun to improve with the emergence of public-private product development partnerships (PDPs), which foster a collaborative approach to drug discovery and have established strong drug development pipelines for neglected and tropical diseases. Some large pharmaceutical companies have also now established dedicated research sites for developing world diseases and are working closely with PDPs on drug development activities. However, drug discovery in this field is still hampered by a lack of sufficient funding and technological investment, and there is a shortage of the tools, assays, and well-validated targets needed to ensure strong drug development pipelines in the future. The availability of high-quality chemically diverse compound libraries to enable lead discovery remains one of the critical bottlenecks. The pharmaceutical industry has much that it can share in terms of drug discovery capacity, know-how, and expertise, and in some cases has been moving towards new paradigms of collaborative pre-competitive research with the PDPs and partners. The future of drug discovery for neglected and tropical diseases will depend on the ability of those working in the area to collaborate together and will require sustained resourcing and focus.