Bayer Animal Health contributes to Project HELP – Evaluation of our veterinary drug candidates against worm infections in humans

Written by
Melina Loeven

Bayer Animal Health currently provides promising research candidates from their anthelmintic Drug Discovery to an EU-sponsored research collaboration to develop medicines against neglected helminth diseases in humans.  


Worms can vary significantly in size, including microscopically small and multi-meter long specimen. However, independent from their size, parasitic worms can cause severe disease when infecting their hosts and result in a tremendous burden of disease.

Parasitic worm infections – a threat to human health

The WHO has estimated that about 1.5 billion people in the world suffer from parasitic worm infections, so called helminth infections1. Yet, there are many different types of worms that cause different diseases. The most prevalent parasitic worms are nematodes, so called roundworms. As of today, there is no drug available with high and reliable cure rates against all types of parasitic nematodes with a single treatment.

Collaboration for innovation – Bayer Animal Health joins public-private partnership to develop anthelmintic drug candidates for soil-transmitted helminthiasis and filarial infections in humans

Together with a consortium of seven private and public partners, Bayer Animal Health contributed to a proposal to develop new medications for prevention and treatment of human nematode infections. With the proposal, the consortium of not-for-profit research and development organizations, academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies applied for an innovation programme sponsored by the European Union. The group under the leadership of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) received funding for the initiation of Project HELP (Helminth Elimination Platform)2 as part of the Horizon2020 programme*.

Daniel Kulke, researcher in the field of Parasiticides at Bayer Animal Health, explains why the initiative is promising: “We will thoroughly evaluate the broad-spectrum potential of Bayer Animal Health innovative compounds originating from our veterinary drug-discovery pipeline for application in humans. We believe that the drugs developed through this approach may target multiple species and life-cycle stages of nematodes with a single treatment.”  

Finding new treatments: using veterinary research results to develop human medicines  

Project HELP was officially kicked-off in September 2019 and runs for five years. Bayer Animal Health, and the second industry partner Celgene, now part of Bristol-Myers Squibb, give access to their proprietary molecules to be tested for efficacy against different parasitic nematodes. The funding will even cover initial studies in humans (Phase I) for two already advanced compounds, oxantel pamoate and oxfendazole.

Douglas Hutchens, Head of Drug Discovery and External Innovation at Bayer Animal Health, is proud that his team is part of this initiative: “We offered innovative anthelmintic assets to this project,” he says. “Using the pioneering results from the latest research at Bayer Animal Health, we hope to contribute to joint development of a drug pipeline for neglected tropical diseases in humans. By utilizing synergies resulting from different sets of expertise of the consortium in Project HELP, we seek to cross boundaries from animal to human health again.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 815628.



* The European Union funds framework programmes for research and innovation in order to boost Europe’s technological competitiveness and address people’s concerns about their livelihoods, safety and the environment. The biggest EU sponsored Research and Innovation programs ever is Horizon2020  – a programme that provides nearly 80 billion Euros funding over the course of seven years. The initiative aims at fostering excellence in science and shall make it easier for the public and private sector to work together in delivering innovation.

Source: European Commission, 2019.

  • 1. Source: WHO,, 2019.
  • 2. Link to press release:

Collaboration for innovation: Partners in Project HELP

Coordinator: Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH)


Not-for-profit research and development (R&D) organization


•    Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)


Pharmaceutical companies


•    Bayer Animal Health
•    Celgene


Academic institutions


•    University Hospital Bonn, Germany
•    Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris, France
•    Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania
•    University of Buea, Cameroon

Written by
Melina Loeven