Wellcome bets $4M on CRO Selcia's university team-up

The U.K.'s Wellcome Trust is putting up about $4.1 million to fund a collaboration between CRO Selcia and Edinburgh University, under which the two will develop new treatments for sleeping sickness.

The disease is prevalent in West and Central Africa, spread by the tsetse fly and inflicting nervous system damage that can lead to coma, organ failure and death. The two institutions have already identified some potential drug compounds that could block the production of enzymes the virus uses to stay alive in the blood, and with Wellcome's support, Selcia and its academic partners are ready to get started on development.

Under their 30-month collaboration, the two will work to design a drug that can be effective in small doses and treat a range of infection severities, they said. Current medicines for sleeping sickness can cause serious debilitating side effects, making safety and tolerability of the utmost importance, the two said.

Meanwhile, for the privately held Selcia, the collaboration also provides an opportunity to expand the breadth of its expertise, CEO Hans Fliri said. The U.K. CRO specializes in drug discovery, boasting services like hit identification, lead optimization and drug metabolism testing.

"Selcia has made no secret of its determination to develop strong links with academic research teams," Fliri said in a statement. "We see these partnerships as a key strategic element of our growing integrated drug discovery offer."

- read the announcement