A groundbreaking collaborative between drug makers and research institutions seeks to leverage collective abilities to speed up the discovery of essential new treatments for tuberculosis (TB).
The partnership, known as the TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA), will target the discovery of new TB drugs by collaborating on early-stage research. Participating pharmaceutical companies will open up targeted sections of their compound libraries and share data with each other and several research institutions. Together they will work to develop the best prospects, regardless of where the drug originated. The TBDA is composed of the following organizations:
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Infectious Disease Research Institute
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
- Texas A&M University
- Weill Cornell Medical College
- Bayer Healthcare AG
- Eli Lilly
- Merck & Co.
The long-term goal of the TBDA is to create a TB drug regimen that cures patients in only one month. Existing drugs are all at least 50 years old and require six months to cure the disease. The lengthy process contributes to 20-30% of patients dropping out before completion. Such high default rates lead to increased mortality, contribute to TB drug resistance and allow patients to continue to infect others.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory system and other organs. It is the second leading infectious cause of death worldwide, having killed nearly 1.4 million people in 2010 alone. At any given moment, more than 12 million people around the world are suffering from active TB. Shortening treatment regimens to even two months would keep an additional one million people on treatment each year.
“TB drug discovery has reached a crossroads,” said Dr. Carl Nathan, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “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.”
Aided by nearly $20 million from the Gates Foundation, partners officially launched the TBDA in April and have begun the first round of screening for new TB drug candidates. The TBDA aims to develop five new preclinical drug candidates with treatment-shortening potential within 5 years and proof-of-concept for a one-month three-drug regimen within 10 years.