Weill Cornell Partners with Pharmaceutical Companies and Academic Researchers to Speed Tuberculosis Drug Discovery
Innovative Partnership Seeks Rapid Cure to Reduce TB Treatment Time from Six Months to One Month
NEW YORK (June 26, 2012) — Seven pharmaceutical companies and four research institutions including Weill Cornell Medical College, working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have launched an innovative partnership that aims to speed the discovery of essential new treatments for tuberculosis (TB).
The partnership, known as the 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 regimen that cures patients in only one month. Existing drugs, all at least 50 years old, require six months to cure the disease — a lengthy process that contributes to 20-30 percent of patients dropping out before completion.
Aided by nearly $20 million from the Gates Foundation, partners officially launched the TBDA in April and have begun the first round of screening for new TB drug candidates. 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.
"TB drug discovery has reached a crossroads," said Dr. Carl Nathan, professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "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. The TB Drug Accelerator is a historic experiment in innovative collaboration."
Through this partnership, the participating pharmaceutical companies — Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck and Sanofi — will open up targeted sections of their compound libraries and share data with each other and four research institutions: the Infectious Disease Research Institute; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health; Texas A&M University; and Weill Cornell Medical College. Breaking from traditional research and development practices, the companies will work together to develop the best prospects, regardless of where the drug originated. The structures of lead compounds identified through the program will ultimately be placed in the public domain.
"The TB Drug Accelerator establishes a new paradigm of cooperation in drug discovery," said Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Chris Viehbacher, speaking on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry partners. "By working together on this, we can optimize our research and speed the development of one of the most pressing needs in global health."
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory system and other organs. It is the second leading infectious cause of death worldwide, having killed nearly 1.4 million people in 2010 alone. At any given moment, more than 12 million people around the world are suffering from active TB.
The high percentage of patients who fail to complete the current six-month treatment regimen adds significantly to the TB burden. High default rates lead to increased mortality, contribute to TB drug resistance and allow patients to continue to infect others. Shortening treatment regimens to even two months would keep an additional one million people on treatment each year.
"Innovative partnerships are critical to helping us solve the most pressing challenges of global health," said Trevor Mundel, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "It's our hope that the TB Drug Accelerator will set a precedent for drug discovery and serve as a resource for others."
The TBDA will add to existing collaborative efforts on TB, building a more robust drug discovery pipeline to complement other initiatives, such as Critical Pathways to TB Drug Regimens (CPTR), which works with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development to speed the clinical development of new combination TB drug therapies.
Weill Cornell Medical College
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.