Drug Firms Open Vaults in Search for TB Treatment
October 8, 2008
The Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute is spearheading a search for new ways to treat tuberculosis. IDRI has persuaded Eli Lilly and Merck & Co. to open their "molecular libraries" of more than 500,000 compounds to look for any promising leads.
Such libraries, which detail the structure and chemistry of potential drug components, are among drug firms' most valuable and closely held assets, said Dr. Gail Cassell, vice president of scientific affairs for Lilly. But the need for new TB drugs is so urgent the companies have put competitiveness aside.
Worldwide, up to 2 billion people are infected with TB. The disease claims the lives of some 1.5 million people annually. TB strains resistant to most existing drugs have been diagnosed in nearly 50 countries, including the United States.
Lilly has taken the search one step further by launching the nonprofit Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, based at IDRI. The program, in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is working with universities, private labs, and government research centers for more leads. Two promising candidates have already emerged: One, developed from a soil microbe by Japanese researchers, has proved effective against drug-resistant TB strains in mice. The other, developed in Britain, also appears to kill resistant TB strains, though it needs more study.
Cassell cautioned that the failure rate of drug candidates is high. Those that pass initial testing will graduate to animal studies. Testing in humans will be done in cooperation with NIAID.
10.07.2008; Sandi Doughton
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.