March 15, 2011
The newly formed More Medicines for Tuberculosis (MM4TB) consortium aims to develop more effective and shorter-course TB treatments for the global marketplace.
MM4TB is being funded by a €16 million (US $22.3 million) European Union grant. The effort joins drug maker AstraZeneca and French rival Sanofi-Aventis; the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne; the universities of Cambridge, Pavia (Italy) and Uppsala (Sweden); and other entities. It will be led by EPFL professor Stuart Cole, a TB expert.
"This is one of the strongest consortiums ever put together," said Cole. "It is led by academia but with the drug discovery know-how of big pharma and biotechs."
The drugs currently used to treat TB were developed nearly half a century ago and typically must be taken for six to nine months, or up to two years for drug-resistant cases. Experts say reducing treatment to a few months would boost adherence and cure rates.
MM4TB aims to have 10 to 20 compounds, leading to the development of two to three successful TB drugs. AstraZeneca will share its compounds and expertise. Research will be conducted in the United Kingdom, Russia, India, and South Africa. A previous consortium resulted in a promising TB drug candidate that is now being developed by the German health care company Alere. "We're confident we can replicate that and come up with two candidates," Cole said.