Anacor Pharmaceuticals has teamed up with three US institutions to discover new drug therapies to treat onchoceriasis, a parasitic disease that causes infectious blindness.

The pharma firm will work with the University of California San Francisco, the Sandler Center and the New York Blood Center’s Lindsley F Kimball Research Institute to identify a novel, potent macro-filaricidal drug candidate capable of adult worms.

Avialable medications only kill only microfilaria, resulting in a need to treat the same infected individual repeatedly over several years to outlast the adult worm lifecyclce.

The collaboration will combine Anacor’s boron-based chemistry platform and drug discovery know how with the Sandler Center’s expertise in neglected disease biology and the Lindsley F Kimball Research Institute’s expertise in the condition.

Funding for the project is being provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through a grant to UCSF over two years for a total of $3.61m. Of this, Anacor will receive $2.24m.

River blindness afflicts over 37 million people, primarily in Africa, and is the second most common cause of infectious blindness.