Jennifer Keiser, Head of the Helminth Drug Development Unit at Swiss TPH, was awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant for EUR 2.47 million over five years to conduct research on soil-transmitted helminth infections. The highly competitive grant supports researchers who are conducting cutting-edge research in their field.
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are among the most common infections worldwide and affect an estimated 1.5 billion people, particularly in lowand middle-income countries. Intestinal worms produce a wide range of symptoms including diarrhea and abdominal pain, and current treatment options are limited.
Keiser’s research will focus on improved therapies for soil-transmitted helminthiases, studying the microbiome-driven modulation of anthelminthic treatment, novel treatment options and new technologies in the field of drug discovery as part of the innovative 5-year project called DRUGSBUGS. "The project holds promise for major breakthroughs in anthelminthic drug discovery and development," said Keiser. "Through our research the next 5 years, we will have a chance to make a considerable public health impact that will result in improved treatments for soil-transmitted helminth infections."
Jennifer Keiser received a PhD in Medical Parasitology from the University of Basel in 1999 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University, NJ, USA from 2000 to 2003. Jennifer Keiser is an Associate Professor for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the University of Basel.
Exploring the current and developing the next generation of anthelminthics
Keiser and her research team will investigate the effects of gut communities on treatment outcomes of STH infections, which will be experimentally validated in vitro and in vivo.
DRUGSBUGS has two Phase 2a trials with emodepside, an anthelmintic drug, against Trichuris trichiura and hookworm in adults including pharmacokinetic studies. Subsequent Phase 2b studies will assess whether emodepside is superior to albendazole, another treatment against parasitic worm infections.
"I speculate that emodepside will emerge as a novel key player in the anthelminthic drug world, which will enhance efficacy and reduce the risk of STH infections in the most vulnerable populations," said Keiser. "In addition, DRUGSBUGS will investigate novel drug screening tools for STH to fill the depleted drug discovery pipeline, which has the chance to make a considerable public health impact in the treatments for STH infections."
ERC Advanced Grant
ERC Advanced Grants support excellent researchers at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognised track-record of research achievements. In this call, 2,678 applicants submitted their proposals in all fields of research. Female researchers submitted 22% of proposals and 23% of grants were awarded to women.