TB Alliance and Novartis collaborate to develop new drugs to fight TB

7 July 2008

The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) have announced a five-year research collaboration to develop new medicines for TB, including drug-resistant strains.

The partnership aims to develop faster TB drug regimens that treat all forms of TB, are easier for patients to complete, and can be used safely in patients with HIV/AIDS.

“Since the NITD’s establishment in 2002, its core strategy has been to collaborate with other organizations to develop and deliver life-saving treatments to those who need them,” said Paul Herrling, chairman of NITD and head of Corporate Research at Novartis. “Our dedicated research team will leverage our expertise gained throughout the past six years of NITD’s TB efforts in partnership with the TB Alliance.”

The TB Alliance is the first not-for-profit organisation to bring a novel TB drug candidate to Phase II trials.

Under the collaboration, the NITD and the TB Alliance will share information on new and ongoing TB drug discovery projects. The agreement clears the pathway for future collaborative development of novel antibiotic compounds. This partnership offers the opportunity for significant progress in the TB drug pipeline, which has grown considerably in the last few years due, in large part, to the resurgent efforts of the TB Alliance and its public-private partners.

“While the global TB crisis shows no signs of abating, new treatments that are easier for patients to complete and that attack TB in new, faster ways are desperately needed,” said Dr Jerome Premmereur, President and CEO of the TB Alliance. “We are confident our collaboration with NITD will not only produce promising anti-TB drug candidates, but will serve as an industry model in combining resources, expertise and willpower to tackle one of the greatest public health threats of our time.”

It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), the bacterium that causes TB. Active TB disease killed over 1.5 million people in 2006, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Drug-susceptible TB can be cured with a four-drug combination, taken ideally under direct observation, but this takes six to nine months, and only works if patients complete the long and often burdensome process.

Erratic or inconsistent exposure to drugs breeds drug-resistant strains that increasingly defy current medicines. According to the WHO, there were nearly 490,000 cases of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) worldwide in 2006. MDR-TB is defined as TB that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, two of the mainstay drugs in today’s four-drug, first-line TB treatment regimen.

In HIV-infected patients whose immune systems are weakened, TB is the leading cause of death. However, the current first-line TB drug regimen is not compatible with certain common antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV/AIDS.

The new collaboration supports the overall mission of both the NITD and the TB Alliance, as they are committed to improving access to medicines and helping reduce the overall global TB disease burden.

More information

The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) is a not-for-profit, product development partnership accelerating the discovery and development of new TB drugs. It works with public and private partners worldwide and is committed to ensuring that approved new regimens are affordable, adopted and available to those who need them. The TB Alliance operates with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Irish Aids, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Website: www.tballiance.org

The Novartis Institute for Tropical Disease (NITD) is based in Singapore and aims to discover novel treatments and prevention methods for major tropical diseases. It was established in 2002 as a public-private partnership between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

In those developing countries where these diseases are endemic, Novartis intends to make treatments readily available without profit to poor patients. Its activities are focused on dengue fever, tuberculosis and malaria, contributing to the education of young scientists and being a role model for public-private partnerships in Southeast Asia.

Website: www.nitd.novartis.com/

To top