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An anti‐Wolbachia azaquinazoline small molecule as a preventative drug candidate for veterinary heartworm disease
Investigator(s): Dr Joseph Turner
Amount Awarded: 95,242

Heartworm is a parasitic worm infection of cats, dogs and occasionally humans. Treating pets monthly prevents infection. Heartworm is spreading throughout America and Europe. The identification of drug resistance in heartworm puts the current treatment strategy at risk. A new type of treatment strategy is to target a symbiotic bacterium, Wolbachia, within heartworm, which is fundamental for their growth, reproduction and survival. LSTM and University of Liverpool investigators have tested >2 million compounds and discovered over 20,000 new chemicals with rapid anti-Wolbachia activities. A novel azaquinazoline class of anti-Wolbachia compound has been developed in partnership with Eisai Inc. One selected compound, AWZ1066S, has entered clinical development to cure a related human filarial worm disease (river blindness). We have determined that AWZ1066S can also work as a preventative treatment by inhibiting the growth of filarial worms to block adult worm infection if given as a single oral dose, once per month. AWZ1066S is exclusively for human health. In this commercialisation project we will examine a set of four closely related azaquinazolines that have similar drug-like properties and increased anti-Wolbachia potency compared with AWZ1066S . We will select one candidate based on similar or improved anti-Wolbachia efficacy, predict a correct dose and then test this dose in dogs. By the end of the project we will have evaluated whether our selected candidate anti-Wolbachia drug can work to prevent heartworm infection in dogs. We will engage with prospective healthcare industry partners to share our findings and seek partnership for onward commercialisation.