Chagas Disease: Current Status and Future Therapeutic Directions

Dec 5 2017

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of communicable diseases affecting approximately 20% of the world’s population. They are present in 149 countries and negatively impact both the socio-economic development and health of individuals in developing countries. The London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases has committed to containing or eliminating 10 of these diseases by 2020 including Chagas Disease.

This disease, first described by Carlos Chagas in 1909, is an infection caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi (T.cruzi). The disease is endemic in Latin American countries, with an increasing number of cases detected in the United States, Australia, and Japan. Currently,11 million people are infected with the disease, and it is recognized as an emerging infection in many countries including the US, Japan, Spain and Australia. Although it has become a leading cause of heart failure in several countries, the only drugs that are approved are benznidazole and nifurtimox. Both of these drugs have severe side effects such as neurological effects, allergic dermatitis, and GI intolerance in addition to a lack of efficacy on late-stage disease. As a result, there is a need for new approaches and drugs to treat the disease.

This symposium will bring together the latest research that is occurring in Chagas disease today with the goal of understanding the gaps and proposing potential solutions. There will be several seminars followed by a round table discussion led by Dr. Jim McKerrow, Dean, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, UC San Diego.

Igor C. Almeida | Professor and Director of Biomolecule Analysis Core Facility, University of Texas El Paso
Jair Siqueira-Neto | Assistant Professor and Screening Core Director, UC San Diego
John Kelly | Professor of Molecular Biology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Rick L. Tarleton | Regent's Professor and UGA-AA Distinguished Research Chair in Biological Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens
Sheba Meymandi | Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine
Laura-Isobel McCall | Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma


8:00 AM | Registration Opens
8:30 AM | Introduction
8:45 AM | John Kelly presents underpinning Chagas disease drug discovery with new insights into parasite biology
9:45 AM | Igor C. Almeida presents “Glycan- and peptide-based vaccines and biomarkers for early assessment of cure of Chagas disease”
10:45 AM | Break
11:00 AM | Jair Siqueira-Neto presents "How far are we from a new Chagas drug?""
12:00 PM | Lunch
1:00 PM | Sheba Meymandi presents Chagas disease
2:00 PM | Laura Isobel-McCall presents "Metabolomics-guided insight into Chagas disease pathogenesis"
3:00 PM | Break
3:15 PM | Rick Tarleton presents "Trypanosoma cruzi - understanding biology to make better use of current drugs and to discover improved oness
4:15 PM | Roundtable Discussion
5:15 PM | Program Close

$25 | General Public
$15 | Student/Academic
$35 | At the door

Janssen Research & Development
3210 Merryfield Row
San Diego, CA

Speakers' Biographies:
Igor C. Almeida | Professor and Director of Biomolecule Analysis Core Facility, ‎University of Texas El Paso
Born and raised in Northeast Brazil, Igor Almeida received his Pharmacy degree from Paraiba State University. Following a Master’s degree in Molecular Biology at Escola Paulista de Medicina/Federal University of São Paulo, under the mentorship of Prof. Karl Peter von Dietrich, he received a Doctor of Science degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the same institution, under the mentorship of Prof. Luiz R. Travassos. In the last 25 years, his research has been focused on Glycobiology and Systems Biology (proteomics, glycolipidomics, and lipidomics) of Trypanosoma cruzi, and development of a glycan- and peptide-based vaccines for Chagas disease, and biomarkers for diagnosis and chemotherapy follow-up of Chagas disease. Moreover, he has also been collaborating with many research groups in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, studying biomarkers for Chagas disease, and structural and function of biomolecules from other protozoan parasites, insect-vectors and pathogenic fungi.

Jair Siqueira-Neto | Assistant Professor and Screening Core Director, UC San Diego
Dr. Siqueira-Neto’s has a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology of microorganisms from Unicamp-SP, Brazil. Then he did his post-doctorate at the Institute Pasteur Korea, where he became an independent scientist with specific training and expertise in drug discovery and development for neglected tropical diseases. He was a pioneer in the development of high content phenotypic screening assays against intracellular Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania sp. After, he moved to San Francisco and became the Kinetoplastid Core Director for the highly collaborative Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases (CDIPD) at UCSF. Currently as Assistant Professor and Screening Core Director at UC San Diego, Dr. Siqueira-Neto has experience collaborating with many academic groups and pharmaceutical companies, including Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Merck, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Calibr, Janssen Pharmaceuticals among others. His research interests include: development of relevant high-throughput and high-content screening assays to identify active compounds to treat infectious diseases; target identification and mechanism of action studies for hit compounds; advance identified hits to lead series by optimizing its pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics properties; development and improvement of models for parasitic diseases for in vivo proof-of-concept efficacy assessment and host-parasite interactions to identify novel druggable targets.

John Kelly | Professor of Molecular Biology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
John Kelly has been Professor of Molecular Biology at LSHTM since 2005, and was Head of the Pathogen Molecular Biology Department from 2010-15. The Kelly lab were the first to transfect Trypanosoma cruzi and have a long record in the development genetic tools for this parasite. He has published widely in the areas of trypanosome biochemistry, chromosome structure and function, and the mechanisms of drug action and resistance. A major focus of his current research, is the development and optimization in vivo imaging techniques applicable to T. cruzi, as tools for assessing drug efficacy and disease pathogenesis.

Rick L. Tarleton | Regent's Professor and UGA-AA Distinguished Research Chair in Biological Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens
Professor Rick Tarleton's research contributions have been nearly exclusively in the area of Chagas disease, including mechanisms of immunity and disease in Trypanosoma cruzi infection, and the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for T. cruzi. Among other highlights, his lab provided some of the seminal findings documenting parasite persistence (rather than autoimmunity) in the etiology of Chagas disease, insights into the function of CD8+ T cells in immune control of T. cruzi and multiple tools for the study of T. cruzi, including genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic datasets and most recently adaptation of the CRISPR/Cas9 system for genome editing. Among current projects in his lab are discovery of biomarkers of cure in human, non-human primate and murine T. cruzi infection, the development of a live avirulent vaccine for transmission control, and the development of new drugs for treating the infection. Rick is the Founder and President, of the Chagas Disease Foundation, former chair of the U.S. NIH Immunity and Host Defense Study Section, and head of the Chagas Drug Discovery Consortium. Previous awards include the Burroughs Welcome Fund Scholar Award (1995) and the Lamar Dodd Outstanding Researcher Award, University of Georgia, 2012.

Sheba Meymandi | Clinical Professor of Medicine, UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine | Director of Cardiovascular Research and Invasive Cardiology at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center
Dr. Sheba Meymandi is the director and founder of the Center of Excellence for Chagas Disease at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, which opened in 2007 as the first U.S. clinic for screening, diagnosis and treatment of Chagas disease. She has over 10 years of experience providing antiparasitic treatment for Chagas disease. She is also a board-certified cardiologist with over 10 years of experience in treating the heart-related complications produced by Chagas disease. The Center conducts free comprehensive mobile medical evaluations in a grassroots effort to screen and educate about the disease and to detect cases early. It also performs important clinical research into rates of prevalence, conduction abnormalities, pregnant women, and congenital transmission. Such research aims in part to bring more awareness to Chagas disease in the US. She has led several research projects related to Chagas disease and collaborates closely with the Centers for Disease Control, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, and other international organizations working to improve care for patients with Chagas disease. Her focus currently is to get screening for Chagas disease in people at risk into the primary care sector in order to establish early screening, diagnosis and treatment of Chagas.

Laura-Isobel McCall | Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma
Dr. McCall’s work focuses on host-microbe communication in the context of parasitic diseases, with the goal of understanding the factors that mediate parasite tropism and disease outcome and hijacking these pathways for drug development. Dr. McCall conducted undergraduate research on leishmaniasis with Drs. Martin Olivier and Greg Matlashewski at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, followed by a PhD on visceral leishmaniasis determinants under the direction of Dr. Matlashewski. She then joined the Center for Discovery and Innovation in Parasitic Diseases (CDIPD, first at UCSF and now at UCSD) as a postdoctoral fellow, working with Drs. James McKerrow and Jair Lage de Siqueira-Neto on high-throughput, high-content anti-trypanosomal drug discovery. Her more recent work focuses on integrating mass spectrometry-based metabolomics with three-dimensional reconstructions to map the chemical communication between Trypanosoma cruzi and the host directly within infected organs. She joined the faculty at the University of Oklahoma in August 2017.