Associate Professor Katherine Andrews from Griffith’s Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery has joined an international team of researchers working on new drugs to combat deadly parasites.

Each year more than a million people worldwide die from malaria, schistosomiasis, leishmaniases and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) and the problem is becoming worse as the parasites which cause these diseases become resistant to existing drug treatments.

The European Union and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council are co-sponsoring a $7.5 million program to discover, evaluate and develop new drugs that can target key proteins essential for the growth of these parasites which are transmitted by mosquitoes, freshwater snails, sand flies and tsetse flies.

Associate Professor Katherine Andrews said the growing ineffectiveness of current medications is emerging as a global problem.

“Effective new drugs are desperately needed and this multinational collaborative program has the potential to deliver exciting new drug leads and important information to help develop them for therapeutic application,” Associate Professor Andrews said.

Griffith has joined a consortium of researchers from France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, Brazil and Australia to carry out the work.

Professor David Fairlie from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at University of Queensland is also working on the project.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for chemists, biochemists, parasitologists and industry to use shared resources in finding new treatments that can improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe afflicted by these infections,” Professor Fairlie said.

Director of the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery, Professor Ronald J Quinn AM said these sorts of research collaborations are vital to find new drugs to fight diseases that burden the developing world.

“Research needs to become more collaborative and multidisciplinary to succeed,” Professor Quinn said.

“By bringing together Australian and European researchers, this project points the way to the future of global health research.”