News Brief: NCATS-FDA Team Receives HHS Innovation Ventures Support to Crowdsource Information on Treating Tropical Diseases

Each year, 1 billion of the poorest people worldwide suffer from infectious tropical diseases, such as dengue fever, malaria and schistosomiasis. More than 500,000 of those people die. Clinicians often repurpose drugs developed for other uses to treat these diseases; however, clinical observations in the field often are not reported. This means the broader scientific and medical communities cannot use the information to treat patients on a wider scale or to develop better therapies.

NCATS researchers and their partners at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognized that the lack of a repository to store this knowledge — a place that could be easily accessed by clinicians around the world — was a critical gap in addressing unmet medical needs. The team collaborated with several public health and research organizations to develop the Web-based Collaborative Use Repurposing Engine (CURE). The platform enables the crowdsourcing of medical information from health care providers to guide potentially life-saving interventions and may help advance the development of new drugs for neglected tropical diseases.

Parvesh Paul, M.D., and Arnav Bhagwati, a patient at Jibhi Clinic of Lady Willingdon Hospital, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India. (FDA Photo/ Heather Stone)

Parvesh Paul, M.D., and Arnav Bhagwati, a patient at Jibhi Clinic of Lady Willingdon Hospital, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India. (FDA Photo/Heather Stone)

The NCATS-FDA team recently received support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Innovation Ventures Fund — an HHS IDEA Lab program — to enhance CURE. The highly competitive awards provide growth-stage funding and 15 months of mentoring, as well as tools to help grow and sustain CURE.

CURE will enable clinicians around the world to share their experiences using existing medical products in new ways. Doctors can use a simple case report form to contribute their knowledge of challenging cases and access a network of experts who can provide guidance about potentially life-saving therapies. Using these data, researchers aim to identify promising products that could be developed formally to treat new diseases. CURE also could enable the rapid identification of available treatments and communication of health outcomes during disease outbreaks.

CURE collaborators include the FDA, World Health Organization, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education. In addition to the HHS Ventures Fund, the FDA’s Medical Countermeasures Initiative and its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research provide grant funding for CURE.


Posted June 2015