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01-07-2012 | Article

Partnership aims at shortening TB regimen


Weill Cornell Medical College ‑ Full statement

MedWire News: Cutting the duration of tuberculosis (TB) treatment down to 1 month from its current 6 months is the major goal of a newly announced research partnership called the TB Drug Accelerator.

"TB drug discovery has reached a crossroads," said Carl Nathan from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, one of the participating research centers. "Finding new and faster-acting TB drugs will take a new kind of partnership, connecting not only academia and industry, but drug company with drug company. The TB Drug Accelerator is a historic experiment in innovative collaboration."

The program is a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, seven pharmaceutical companies (Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Sanofi), and four research centers (Infectious Disease Research Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Texas A&M University, and Weill Cornell).

The partnership, launched with a donation of nearly $ 20 million from the Gates Foundation, will focus on screening new TB drug candidates, with the goal of developing five pre-clinical compounds within 5 years that have the potential to be delivered as part of a shorter course of treatment. The partners hope to have proof-of-concept for a 1-month, three-drug regimen within the next decade, according to a press statement.

The pharmaceutical companies in the partnership will share data and proprietary targeted compounds with eachother and with the participating research institutions.

"Breaking from traditional research and development practices, the companies will work together to develop the best prospects, regardless of where the drug originated. The structures of lead compounds identified through the program will ultimately be placed in the public domain," the statement says.

Shortening the time to complete TB therapy would likely increase compliance and reduce the incidence of emergent drug-resistant TB strains, the partners say. They estimate that a TB regimen lasting 2 rather than 6 months could keep an additional 1 million TB patients on therapy annually.

"It's our hope that the TB Drug Accelerator will set a precedent for drug discovery and serve as a resource for others," said Trevor Mundel, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

By Neil Osterweil