A new collaborative project has been launched to engage students from five universities in the US, the UK and India to help discover new drugs for neglected diseases.

The collaboration, known as Open Synthesis Network (OSN), is a partnership between the non-profit research and development organisation Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and the five universities.

Under the initiative, undergraduate and masters level students will develop and synthesise potential anti-parasite compounds that will be tested by DNDi.

MRes drug discovery and development course director Professor Ed Tate said: “These projects allow our students to do real innovative science at the cutting edge of drug development. They have access to every part of the process, including designing, synthesising and testing.

“Our students get the opportunity to work with a global organisation doing the best science for the most neglected tropical diseases, contributing to international development and networking with their peers across three continents.

“In return, the students provide the DNDi with the opportunity to investigate aspects of potential drug molecules that they would not have the resource to look at in detail themselves.

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"We could open up a new avenue of collaborative discovery if we find something of interest, which they could then quickly move into preclinical development."

“We could open up a new avenue of collaborative discovery if we find something of interest, which they could then quickly move into preclinical development.”

In its first year, chemistry students at Imperial College London focused on working on compounds to target visceral leishmaniasis, which kills nearly 30,000 people every year.

It is caused by parasites transmitted by sandflies, which cause prolonged fever, enlarged spleen and liver, substantial weight loss and even death if untreated.

The students researched on such compounds that can kill Leishmaniadonovani and Leishmaniainfantum parasites that cause this disease.

During the OSN process, the DNDi data would be shared with all participants.

The research will be published by OSN in the public domain in real-time to ensure faster development of the medicines.

The OSN comprises five universities, namely, the Shobhaben Pratapbhai Patel School of Pharmacy & Technology Management at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in Mumbai, India; the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in Hyderabad, India; Imperial College London, UK; Northeastern University in Boston, US; and Pace University in New York City, US.