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On June 29th, 2011 the non-profit Grand Challenges Canada announced 19 recipients of its first round $100,000 grant for the Rising Stars in Global Health program. The project granted to adjunct biochemist of McGill University Dr. Anny Fortin proposed to use a permanent make-up (PMU, or tattoo) device to target intra-dermal delivery of a new anti-cutaneous leishmaniasis therapy, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by the bites of sandflies.
This project is innovative as it builds on the use of a proven technology of the cosmetic sector to cure a debilitating disease of the developing world.
Two medium-size companies will participate in part in the realization of this project. One of them, MT-Derm, is a specialist in manufacturing micropigmentation/ tattoo devices for the cosmetic and medical industry “The device is easy to use, adaptable to settings with limited electricity and is fully hygienic” says Dr. Stef Stienstra, member of the scientific advisory board of MT-Derm. Dr. Stienstra has a long- standing interest in therapy delivery using medical devices and has an established collaboration with the Pasteur Institute in Iran. He will play a pivotal role in the translational aspect of this project.
A drug selected for the project is experimental and currently developed by Dr. Fortin with the support of Dafra Pharma Research & Development and the Flemish Government through IWT. “Dafra Pharma is one of the very few private companies that dare to invest in new therapies for the poor” says its founding-president Dr. Herwig Jansen. “We are pleased to offer our expertise and technology into the profit of this project.”
This project will generate a new treatment against CL and also importantly, a new concept for drug delivery against skin diseases. If successful, this project has the potential to increase the quality of life of thousands of people in the poorest areas of this world, where cutaneous leishmaniasis is endemic.
Leishmaniasis is caused by protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Leishmania. The parasites are transmitted by the bite of a tiny – only 2–3 mm long – insect vector, the phlebotomine sandfly.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most common form of leishmaniasis. It usually produces ulcers on the exposed parts of the body, such as the face, arms and legs. There may be a large number of lesions – sometimes up to 200 – which can cause serious disability. When the ulcers heal, they invariably leave permanent scars, which are often the cause of serious social prejudice.
Twelve million people worldwide are infected with cutaneous leishmaniasis and 1.5 million new cases occur annually. The disease is linked to poverty in the Middle-East, North & East Africa, South-Central Asia and South-America. Approximately 350 million people are at risk. Although there is a huge clinical need, no good topical treatment is available for this disease at the moment.
Anny Fortin is an Adjunct Member of the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University and the Director of Research at Dafra Pharma R&D in Belgium, a member of the Dafra Pharma group which is a pharmaceutical company specializing in the development and sales of drugs on the African market. She holds a doctorate in Biochemistry from McGill University, during which she specialized in host response to infections and the study of complex genetic diseases. Her Ph.D. work was attributed the Governor General's Gold medal for most outstanding McGill graduate receiving a Ph.D. in Natural Sciences and Engineering in 2002-2003, and the Thomas Haliburton Henry Award. Dr Anny Fortin has now accumulated nearly 10 years of experience in the corporate sector in the field of genetics, drug target identification and anti-infectious drug development. She is also present on the academic scene through numerous publications, presentations and training of graduate students. Since 2008, Dr Anny Fortin is a board member of the Canadian Gene Cure foundation where she works at promoting research in the field of genetics.
Dafra Pharma International
Between the founding in 1997 and today an impressive number of pages have been written in the history of Dafra Pharma. What initially started as a small family company focussing on malaria treatments, evolved in just over a decade into a global pharmaceutical company with a strong portfolio of products.
The foundations of the current Dafra Pharma International structure have been laid by the successful development and distribution in Africa of malaria treatments based on artemisinin derivatives. On these stable and through customers recognized and valued foundations, Dafra Pharma built their entire product diversification program, introducing a strong product portfolio with products from different therapeutic classes, turning Dafra into a total health care solution provider.
Throughout Africa Dafra Pharma managed to establish a unique local commercial network that feels the heartbeat of the African market. 150 people carry out the Dafra message globally.
In a challenging environment such as Africa, keeping the finger on the pulse of the market is crucial for being able to live up to those challenges. Our commercial network of medical and commercial representatives, country managers, operation managers and directors listens to heartbeat of the African markets and will anticipate and react to any changes in the rhythm.
This experience from the field gives us and our three subsidiaries in Mali, Kenya and Nigeria, the chance to coordinate and support the marketing and promotion activities in more than 30 African countries.
Our local teams consist of highly skilled and motivated representatives who are all involved in our continuous learning program as we are convinced that knowledge is the corner stone of our success in Africa.
We consider the collaboration between European and African expertise as unique and will deploy this win-win situation even more in the future.
Source: DAFRA Pharma