The 'neglected' parasite-borne diseases of leishmaniasis and Chagas disease affect some 18 million people worldwide, mostly in developing countries. If left untreated, both can be fatal, and indeed visceral leishmaniasis is thought to be the second largest parasitic cause of death after malaria. The few current available treatments exhibit toxicity side effects, are expensive, or show emerging resistance.
With the long term goal of contributing to the development of new therapies, we are targeting the synthesis and modification of several families of plant-derived natural products which demonstrate promising antiparasitic activity against L. donovani and T. cruzi (or related parasites). To do this, we are collaborating with parasitologist Prof André Tempone (Instituto Adolfo Lutz, São Paulo) and natural products isolation chemist Prof João Lago (ABC Federal University, São Paulo), to use simple natural products as starting points for this research. We aim to explore Structure Activity Relationships in these compounds, and to develop concise and cheap synthetic routes that enable facile diversification. We also work with Prof Kevin Read (Dundee Drug Discovery Unit) to incorporate pharmacokinetic considerations into molecular modification.