New EU-funded projects to find new cures for tuberculosis
28 March 2011
To mark World Tuberculosis Day the European Commission has
announced that it is supporting projects aimed at finding new cures for
Tuberculosis kills nearly two million people each year worldwide and
no new drugs have been developed for almost 50 years.
Since the beginning of the 7th Framework Programme for Research in
2007, €51 million has been invested in over 13 transnational
collaborative projects. Most of these projects have addressed the
complex interaction between the causative agent, Mycobacterium
tuberculosis, and the human host, or are developing new
diagnostic tools and new vaccine candidates to fight tuberculosis.
Recently three more projects have started, including one funded by
the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership
(EDCTP), which is supported by the EC. They will also focus on
developing new drugs which could make the shorter treatment of
tuberculosis a reality.
Generating new candidate drugs
New drugs for an old disease require novel ideas. Under the
Seventh Framework Programme for research, the European Commission
provides support for the most innovative approaches to combat the
disease effectively. Two new research projects funded by the
European Union started in 2011:
- MM4TB, "More Medicines for Tuberculosis", is a highly
innovative project using genetic and chemical approaches to
discover new ways of treating the disease and identify new
chemicals that would serve as candidates for novel drugs
- ORCHID, "Open Collaborative Model for Tuberculosis Lead
Optimisation", focuses on testing new drugs against
drug-sensitive and resistant tuberculosis, with a number of
promising molecules as a starting point in the development of
Together, these projects will make a significant effort towards
shortening the treatment regimen of tuberculosis. They combine the
knowledge of the best academic research groups in Europe with
industrial expertise from SMEs and big pharmaceutical companies.
Testing candidate drugs: a promising clinical trial
EDCTP, which the European Commission supports, is funding the
Pan-African Consortium for Evaluation of Anti-tuberculosis
Antibiotics (PanACEA), an African-European research collaboration
aiming to shorten and simplify treatment of tuberculosis.
This consortium is conducting regulatory standard Phase II and
III clinical trials for anti-tuberculosis drugs regimens containing
SQ109, Moxifloxacin and high dose Rifamycin. The molecule SQ109 is
one of the most promising tuberculosis drugs to enter advanced
clinical testing in recent years. It could simplify and shorten the
duration of tuberculosis treatment and decrease disease recurrence.
The European Union is supporting collaborative research on
tuberculosis through the Seventh Framework Programme for Research
(FP7, 2007-2013). It covers the full spectrum of research, from
basic molecular research through preclinical tests and
proof-of-principle. It also contributes to the European & Developing
Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
EDCTP was created in 2003 by the European Union as a response to
the global health crisis caused by the three main poverty-related
diseases of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. It aims to
accelerate the development of new or improved drugs, vaccines and
microbicides with a focus on phase II and III clinical trials in
It unites 16 European countries with sub-Saharan African
countries. So far, the EDCTP has earmarked support to 18
tuberculosis trials with a total budget of €99.41 million, of which
€38.75 million was contributed by the European Commission.