Open Source Effort Develops Affordable Drugs

Press Release | Stevens Institute of Technology | March 14, 2013

International collaboration helps developing nations fight malaria and tuberculosis

In order to accelerate the development of new drugs to combat and cure major infectious diseases, Professor A.K. Ganguly of the Department of Chemistry, Chemical Biology & Biomedical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology is contributing his expertise and passion to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Open Source Drug Discovery initiative. Dr. Ganguly is focusing on new treatments for malaria and tuberculosis, which are causing millions of deaths while several drugs used to cure these diseases no longer work because of the appearance of resistant strains.

“Malaria and tuberculosis are two of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, killing over 2 million people combined in 2010, the vast majority of whom live in developing nations,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “Dr. Ganguly’s expertise will greatly benefit CSIR’s multidisciplinary partnership to develop improved and—crucially—affordable treatments for these terrible diseases.”

Experts estimate that 90-95% of global malaria deaths occur in Africa and 94-98% of tuberculosis deaths occur in developing nations. Poor, crowded living conditions help promote the spread of these diseases, which in turn perpetuate poverty and cause lost economic growth in a vicious cycle. Emerging drug-resistant strains exacerbate the problem.

In order to assist in the effort to develop novel affordable treatments for diseases that exceedingly affect lower and middle-income countries, Dr. Ganguly will serve as a mentor to the CSIR-led global initiative Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD). The initiative promises to hasten the discovery of new drugs by providing a forum for collaboration along with unique access to aggregated biological and genetic information for scientists, doctors, technocrats, students and others with diverse expertise.

Dr. Ganguly was invited by the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to participate in the mentor program.  As a mentor, he will initially advise the group on the development of anti-tuberculosis drugs.

“It is an honor to be asked to participate in this collaborative approach to discovering drugs that will cure tuberculosis and malaria,” says Dr. Ganguly.

“Dr. Ganguly’s experience in creating cutting-edge pharmaceuticals and his enthusiasm for mentoring young scientists makes him an ideal contributor to this project,” says Dr. Philip Leopold, Director of the Chemistry, Chemical Biology, and Biomedical Engineering Department. “As a leader in drug discovery, Dr. Ganguly will help CSIR's network develop new treatments for those in dire need.”

Prior to joining Stevens as a Professor of Chemistry in 1999, Dr. Ganguly spent many years directing research in the pharmaceutical industry and was the Senior Vice President of chemical research at Schering-Plough Research Institute. He has made many significant contributions in drug discovery, and has been associated with the discoveries of Ezetimibe (Zetia), a cholesterol absorption inhibitor; Noxafil (Posaconazole), a potent antifungal; Victrelis, a potent antiviral agent for the treatment of hepatitis C infection; and Lonafarnib (Sarasar), a highly selective farnesyl protein transferase inhibitor that is presently being used for the treatment of progeria, a devastating childhood disease. More recently based on his research at Stevens, Dr. Ganguly was granted a patent for a protease inhibitor that can be used to treat HIV and HIV-related disorders. For his discoveries, Dr. Ganguly was awarded the E.B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries in Medicinally Active Substances from the American Chemical Society.

Dr. Ganguly devotes his present efforts to educating the next generation of scientists. “Academic life is especially rewarding when I can help to motivate students to pursue careers in science and research,” says Dr. Ganguly.

CSIR is the largest scientific organization in India and encompasses several institutions covering all the major scientific disciplines. OSDD’s vision is to provide affordable healthcare to the developing world by providing a global platform where the best minds can collaborate to solve the complex problems associated with discovering novel therapies for neglected tropical diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.