Purdue researcher awarded $1.3 million for malaria drug trials in Southeast Asia and Africa

Philip Low looks to validate previous trial results and test whether the number of days of an anti-malaria drug therapy can be reduced

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Sept. 15, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A Purdue researcher is taking a giant leap forward in the fight against drug-resistant strains of malaria in developing countries.

Open Philanthropy has awarded $1.38 million to Philip Low to further validate a drug therapy that he and his colleagues have previously shown to successfully treat the disease. Low (rhymes with “now”) is Purdue University’s Presidential Scholar for Drug Discovery and the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Science.

For years, experts have been concerned about the rise of drug-resistant malaria variants in Southeast Asia and the prospect that one or more of these strains might travel to Africa. A similar event occurred in the 1980s with the emergence of drug resistance to the then-standard treatment of chloroquine, which resulted in millions of deaths.

But Low is working to save lives on both continents by conducting clinical trials to validate previous results and to test whether the number of days of an anti-malaria treatment can be reduced.

While studying how malaria propagates in human blood, Low and his research team discovered that the cancer drug therapy imatinib is effective in the treatment of drug-resistant malaria. Trials in Southeast Asia showed that imatinib, when combined with the customary malaria therapy, clears all malaria parasites from 90% of patients within 48 hours and 100% of patients within three days. The patients receiving imatinib were also relieved of their fevers in less than half of the time experienced by similar patients treated with the standard therapy.

Open Philanthropy has awarded Low $600,000 for a larger clinical trial in Southeast Asia to validate his previous trials. The organization has also awarded Low $780,000 to determine whether the usual three-day therapy can be reduced to two days or even one. This work will be focused in the African countries of Kenya and Tanzania where malaria is prominent.

“We found that people in Africa must often walk many miles to obtain treatment for malaria. They will receive three pills, walk all the way home, take one or two pills, start to feel better, and then save the third pill for their next malaria infection,” Low said. “When they don’t finish the course of treatment, only the most drug-resistant strains of the parasite survive and spread. And that’s how people build up drug resistance. So we’d like to eventually be able to cure all patients with just one pill. It would prevent these drug-resistant strains from ever proliferating.”

Open Philanthropy is a grantmaking organization whose mission is to use its resources to help others as much as it can, according to the funder.

“This is yet another case of an organization recognizing Philip Low’s brilliance, scientific vision and mission to help people in all corners of the world,” said Brooke Beier, senior vice president of Purdue Innovates. “The Purdue Research Foundation has been a proud partner in supporting his work, protecting and promoting his intellectual property that is changing lives and making our world a better place to live.”

Since 1988, Low has been listed on more than 145 invention disclosures to the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization. He has been listed on more than 600 patents in nearly two dozen countries around the world from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and international patent organizations. During his tenure at Purdue, Low has been awarded 213 research grants for more than $43.5 million. His work also receives support from the Purdue Institute for Cancer Research and the Purdue Institute for Drug Discovery.

Imatinib was originally produced by Novartis for the treatment of chronic myelogenous leukemia and other cancers. It works by blocking specific enzymes involved in the growth of cancers.

“When we discovered the ability of imatinib to block parasite propagation in human blood cultures in petri dishes, we initiated a human clinical trial where we combined imatinib with the standard treatment (piperaquine plus dihydroartemisinin) used to treat malaria in much of the world,” Low said.

Malaria infects human red blood cells, where it reproduces and eventually activates a red blood cell enzyme that in turn triggers rupture of the cell and release of a form of the parasite called a merozoite into the bloodstream. Low and his colleagues theorized that by blocking the critical red blood cell enzyme, they could stop the infection. The data from initial drug trials have confirmed that.

“Because we’re targeting an enzyme that belongs to the red blood cell, the parasite can’t mutate to develop resistance — it simply can’t mutate our proteins in our blood cells,” Low said. “This is a novel approach that will hopefully become a therapy that can’t be evaded by the parasite in the future. This would constitute an important contribution to human health.”

The goal, Low said, is to get this into developing countries to save lives. With this new round of funding, he says they’re now closer than they’ve ever been.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, with 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 12 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes, at https://www.purdue.edu/president/strategic-initiatives.

About Purdue Innovates

Purdue Innovates is a unified network at Purdue Research Foundation to assist Purdue faculty, staff, students and alumni in either IP commercialization or startup creation. As a conduit to technology commercialization, intellectual property protection and licensing, startup creation and venture capital, Purdue Innovates serves as the front door to translate new ideas into world-changing impact.

For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact Purdue Innovates at purdueinnovates@prf.org.

Media contact: Steve Martin, sgmartin@prf.org

Sources: Philip Low, plow@purdue.edu

Brooke Beier, blbeier@prf.org

Attachment

Steve Martin
Purdue Research Foundation
sgmartin@prf.org

GlobeNewswire Distribution ID 8923129

Kim distorted the situation in the region, the US should not repeat false narratives of Armenia – Bayramov

On September 16, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Senior Adviser to the US State Department for Negotiations in the Caucasus Louis Bono. They discussed the situation in the region, normalization and peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, current threats and challenges, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports.

Bayramov stressed that “the hindering party in the implementation of the agreement on the simultaneous opening of the Aghdam-Khankendi road and the Lachin road, reached during the conversation between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on September 1, is Armenia and the illegal regime created by it.”

He added that this fact once again confirms that, contrary to the allegations of an alleged “humanitarian crisis” and “blockade” in the region, the situation is not humanitarian, but political in nature.

Bayramov stated that the repetition of false narratives of the Armenian side by a number of international partners, including the United States, is unacceptable, despite the fact that they are well aware of the situation in the region and Armenia’s military and political provocations, its support for separatism in Azerbaijani territories against the background of Baku’s constructive position.

In this regard, Bayramov expressed regret over the reflection of unfounded allegations of Armenia, which has not yet withdrawn all its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, in a speech by US Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim (in the US Senate).

Despite the fact that Armenia and the so-called regime prevented the parallel opening of roads in accordance with the agreement of September 1 with the American side, her statements in the US Senate formed a misconception about the situation.

At the same time, Bayramov confirmed Azerbaijan’s commitment to the agreement on parallel use of roads. During the meeting, the sides also exchanged views on other issues of mutual interest.

Source: Turan News Agency

Erdogan proposed to hold a meeting of the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he had offered Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to hold a quadrilateral meeting on the Karabakh issue at the leadership level, TASS reports.

“Yes, our priorities are to hold talks in a trilateral format, as previously planned. But we also offered to meet in a quadrilateral format. They passed such an offer. That is, it’s me, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev and [Armenian Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan. I said, let’s meet, discuss together the steps that need to be done. At the moment, we have received neither a negative nor a positive response to this proposal,” Erdogan said at a press conference in Istanbul before flying to New York, which was broadcast by TV channels.

Source: Turan News Agency

Wearing masks again made mandatory in Russian Government House

Wearing masks as well as other preventive measures have again been made mandatory in the Russian Government House over a seasonal surge in colds, flu and Covid, the cabinet of ministers told TASS.

“Extra preventive measures, including wearing masks, are being temporarily introduced in the Government House premises. The decision was made following a seasonal uptick in acute respiratory viral infections, flu and COVID-19,” the spokesperson said.

The cabinet expects that the temporary restrictions “will contribute to maintaining a favorable epidemiological situation.”

Initially, wearing masks was made mandatory in the government at the outbreak of the pandemic, back in 2020. However, since this April, wearing masks and other similar measures have not been mandatory, but remained recommended.

Earlier, the RBC announced the return of anti-epidemic restrictions in the House of Government. According to the media group, wearing masks will be introduced there on September 18, face-to-face contact between staff members will be limited and the number of foreign and domestic work trips will be reduced.

Source: Azerbaijan State News Agency

Genetically modified bacteria break down plastics in saltwater

Researchers have genetically engineered a marine microorganism to break down plastic in salt water, according to Science Daily.

Specifically, the modified organism can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic used in everything from water bottles to clothing that is a significant contributor to microplastic pollution in oceans.

“This is exciting because we need to address plastic pollution in marine environments,” says Nathan Crook, corresponding author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University.

“One option is to pull the plastic out of the water and put it in a landfill, but that poses challenges of its own. It would be better if we could break these plastics down into products that can be re-used. For that to work, you need an inexpensive way to break the plastic down. Our work here is a big step in that direction.”

To address this challenge, the researchers worked with two species of bacteria. The first bacterium, Vibrio natriegens, thrives in saltwater and is remarkable — in part — because it reproduces very quickly. The second bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis, is remarkable because it produces enzymes that allow it to break down PET and eat it.

The researchers took the DNA from I. sakaiensis that is responsible for producing the enzymes that break down plastic, and incorporated that genetic sequence into a plasmid. Plasmids are genetic sequences that can replicate in a cell, independent of the cell’s own chromosome. In other words, you can sneak a plasmid into a foreign cell, and that cell will carry out the instructions in the plasmid’s DNA. And that’s exactly what the researchers did here.

By introducing the plasmid containing the I. sakaiensis genes into V. natriegens bacteria, the researchers were able to get V. natriegens to produce the desired enzymes on the surface of their cells. The researchers then demonstrated that V. natriegens was able to break down PET in a saltwater environment at room temperature.

“This is scientifically exciting because this is the first time anyone has reported successfully getting V. natriegens to express foreign enzymes on the surface of its cells,” Crook says.

“From a practical standpoint, this is also the first genetically engineered organism that we know of that is capable of breaking down PET microplastics in saltwater,” says Tianyu Li, first author of the paper and a Ph.D. student at NC State. “That’s important, because it is not economically feasible to remove plastics from the ocean and rinse high concentration salts off before beginning any processes related to breaking the plastic down.”

“However, while this is an important first step, there are still three significant hurdles,” Crook says. “First, we’d like to incorporate the DNA from I. sakaiensis directly into the genome of V. natriegens, which would make the production of plastic-degrading enzymes a more stable feature of the modified organisms. Second, we need to further modify V. natriegens so that it is capable of feeding on the byproducts it produces when it breaks down the PET. Lastly, we need to modify the V. natriegens to produce a desirable end product from the PET — such as a molecule that is a useful feedstock for the chemical industry.

“Honestly, that third challenge is the easiest of the three,” says Crook. “Breaking down the PET in saltwater was the most challenging part.

“We are also open to talking with industry groups to learn more about which molecules would be most desirable for us to engineer the V. natriegens into producing,” Crook says. “Given the range of molecules we can induce the bacteria to produce, and the potentially vast scale of production, which molecules could industry provide a market for?”

The paper, “Breakdown of PET microplastics under saltwater conditions using engineered Vibrio natriegens,” is published open access in the AIChE Journal. The paper was co-authored by Stefano Menegatti, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State.

Source: Azerbaijan State News Agency

Azerbaijan Army positions once again subjected to fire in Gadabay direction, Defense Ministry

On September 16, at about 19:50, the Armenian armed forces units from the positions in the direction of the Jil settlement of the Chambarak district using various caliber weapons subjected to fire the Azerbaijan Army positions stationed in the direction of the Ayrivang settlement of the Gadabay district, the Ministry of Defense told AZERTAC.

“The Azerbaijan Army Units took retaliatory measures in the mentioned direction,” the ministry said.

Source: Azerbaijan State News Agency