Pharmaceutical company Novartis has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help advance drug candidate KDU731 for the treatment of cryptosporidiosis, an infectious diarrheal disease.

Diarrheal diseases are one of the leading causes of global childhood mortality, causing approximately 525,000 deaths per year. Cryptosporidiosis is the second leading cause of infectious diarrhoea in children below the age of two.

KDU731 is a cryptosporidium lipid kinase PI(4)K inhibitor, shown to effectively treat cryptosporidium infection in preclinical models. Currently it is undergoing safety studies before clinical trials can begin.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $6.5 million to the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) and its development of KDU731. NITD is dedicated to the discovery and development of treatments specifically for malaria, cryptosporidiosis, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), Chagas disease and leishmaniasis.

“We are committed to the fight against cryptosporidiosis and other infectious and neglected tropical diseases and are proud to work closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…in this effort,” said NITD head Thierry Diagana.

“Today’s global health issues cannot be solved by one organisation alone. Private companies, governments, non-governmental organisations, academia and other stakeholders need to work together to create sustainable solutions.”

Over the years the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has committed vast sums of money in support of treatments and initiatives for fighting diseases such as malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). In January 2018 the foundation announced it would be contributing $50 million in financing, plus an additional $12.5 million in technical assistance, to the EU’s investment projects in Africa’s health sector.

The foundation has made a number of Program Related Investments (PRIs) in global health companies such as Affinivax Inc, CureVac, Intarcia Therapeutics, Kymab, Lodo Therapeutics and Sera Prognostics. In September 2017 it invested $40 million in Oxford-based company Immunocore, which is developing immunotherapies for infectious diseases such as AIDS and TB.

One of the foundation’s largest investments was to Gavi, a group dedicated to improving global access to vaccines. The foundation initially pledged $750 million in 1999,and since then additional pledges have brought its total contribution to over $4 billion.