Leading Japan drug firms team up with AZ on parasitic disease research

Japan's Eisai, Shinogi and Takeda Pharmaceutical have teamed up with U.K.-based AstraZeneca ($AZN) on a broad R&D effort to find treatments for insect-borne parasitic diseases Chagas and leishmaniasis.

The move follows a $100 million Global Health Innovative Technology fund set up by 6 Japanese companies, the government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013 to focus on neglected diseases, The New York Times reported.

By opening databases of millions of chemical compounds to the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, the companies hope to enable researchers to find treatments that can kill parasites that cause the diseases, The New York Times reported.

The effort aims to bring funding and expertise to diseases that often afflict the poor and that fail to attract interest because of weak financial return prospects.

The New York Times said the move was a spark for the Japanese firms as its drug companies often rank near the bottom of the Access to Medicines Index, which scores companies on how much they do for poor countries.

Japan's government and companies have stepped up medical research and development in the past year as part of a fiscal strategy aimed at spurring the economy and fostering innovation.

- here's the NY Times story