Replenishing the malaria drug discovery pipeline: Screening and hit evaluation of the MMV Hit Generation Library 1 (HGL1) against asexual blood stage Plasmodium falciparum, using a nano luciferase reporter read-out

K. Dechering et al., SLAS Discovery (22), 2022


A central challenge of antimalarial therapy is the emergence of resistance to the components of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and the urgent need for new drugs acting through novel mechanism of action. Over the last decade, compounds identified in phenotypic high throughput screens (HTS) have provided the starting point for six candidate drugs currently in the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) clinical development portfolio. However, the published screening data which provided much of the new chemical matter for malaria drug discovery projects have been extensively mined. Here we present a new screening and selection cascade for generation of hit compounds active against the blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum.

In addition, we validate our approach by testing a library of 141,786 compounds not reported earlier as being tested against malaria. The Hit Generation Library 1 (HGL1) was designed to maximise the chemical diversity and novelty of compounds with physicochemical properties associated with potential for further development. A robust HTS cascade containing orthogonal efficacy and cytotoxicity assays, including a newly developed and validated nanoluciferase-based assay was used to profile the compounds. 75 compounds (Screening Active hit rate of 0.05%) were identified meeting our stringent selection criteria of potency in drug sensitive (NF54) and drug resistant (Dd2) parasite strains (IC50 ≤ 2 µM), rapid speed of action and cell viability in HepG2 cells (IC50 ≥ 10 µM). Following further profiling, 33 compounds were identified that meet the MMV Confirmed Active profile and are high quality starting points for new antimalarial drug discovery projects

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