Novartis taps CF research in hunt for diarrhea drugs

The non-profit Institute for OneWorld Health has forged a research pact with Novartis that will tap years of lab work on cystic fibrosis in an effort to find new therapies to treat secretory diarrhea, a condition that kills some 1.6 million children in the developing world every year.

Both diseases involve a common biological thread: Carrying water across organ walls. In CF, a mutant gene blocks water from the lungs, triggering a buildup of mucus. And in secretory diarrhea, bacteria causes too much water to go into the bowels and get flushed out, leaving the body in shock from dehydration. Novartis will commit 10 researchers to the hunt for a new therapy that targets the cellular pathway that causes excess water to flow into the bowels, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Those researchers will test a theory that CF's genetic trigger may have developed from the body's natural protective response to guard against dehydration caused by bacteria.

Funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, OneWorld has been successful in gaining the support of some of the world's biggest pharma companies. Just last May the nonprofit announced that it had finished its initial screening of Roche's library of compounds, searching for potential therapies that could prevent childhood diarrhea. OneWorld will select up to 40 drug leads for further research work.

- read the report from the Wall Street Journal
- check out the release on the work with Roche

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