Pharma bigwigs join hands for new TB drug

Updated: Jun 28, 2012, 08:56 AM IST

New Delhi: Pharmaceutical companies and research institutions in association with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have stepped up efforts to aid research on a new drug for tuberculosis (TB), a disease that annually kills about three lakh in India.

"The partnership, TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA), will target the discovery of new TB drugs by collaborating on early-stage research. The long-term goal of the TBDA is to create a TB drug that cures patients in only one month," a statement from pharma firm Sanofi said Wednesday.

Seven pharmaceutical companies and four research institutions have teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the goal.

Under the current TB course of medication, the patient has to be on antibiotics for at least six months, during which 20-30 percent patients drop out before completion.

With financial aid from the Gates Foundation, partners officially launched the TBDA in April and have begun the first round of screening for new TB drug candidates.

"TB drug discovery has reached a crossroads. 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," a Sanofi statement quoted Carl Nathan, professor and chairman of the department of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College, as saying.

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.

The participating pharmacy giants include Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Sanofi. The companies will share data with American research institutions like Infectious Disease Research Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Weill Cornell Medical College.

"The TB Drug Accelerator establishes a new paradigm of cooperation in drug discovery. By working together on this, we can optimize our research and speed the development of one of the most pressing needs in global health," said Chris Viehbacher, chief executive officer of Sanofi.