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GlaxoSmithKline and TB Alliance renew tuberculosis drug discovery programme


Issued — January 2008, London, UK and New York, USA

Research focuses on compounds with potential to reduce treatment duration and tackle drug-resistant disease

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) have renewed their joint research programme with the goal to improve the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), which is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb). The research collaboration, initiated in 2004, currently includes a portfolio of early projects which may ultimately yield new medicines that attack M.tb, including drug-resistance strains.

Under the agreement which has been extended for a further three years, GSK and the TB Alliance jointly fund 15 to 25 fully dedicated scientists at GSK’s Tres Cantos facility in Spain where GSK has a team of scientists committed to TB and malaria research – two of the three major communicable diseases affecting the developing world.

"We are encouraged by the success of our pioneering work with GSK, which has nearly doubled the number of TB drug discovery projects in our pipeline,” said Dr. Mel Spigelman, TB Alliance Director of Research and Development. “This collaboration is advancing the TB Alliance’s mission to develop revolutionary, faster and better TB treatment regimens by exploring new ways to attack the disease.“

“While we still have a considerable amount of work ahead, the progress achieved so far demonstrates how this type of alliance can speed the discovery and development of new therapies,” said Dr. Zhi Hong, Senior Vice President of the Infectious Diseases Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery (ID CEDD)at GSK. “The worsening TB epidemic and emerging multi-drug resistant TB demand a new treatment paradigm, one which GSK is committed to find through this collaboration.”

The joint research programme currently consists of a portfolio of five projects with promise in fighting TB. The two most advanced drug discovery projects, which are still at the discovery stage, explore two classes of novel antibiotics with unprecedented anti-tubercular mechanisms of action. They have been shown in non-clinical studies to have potential benefits in fighting persistent forms of M.tb and thereby might offer better chances of shortening treatment duration, which currently takes about six months to complete.

Additional projects seek to identify and attack novel mycobacterium enzymes/targets. By inhibiting enzymes critical to the functioning of M.tb, these approaches may disable the bacterium without harming the human host and may also significantly shorten the duration of treatment.

New drugs are critical to ending the needless burden of TB. The current TB drug regimen works for active, drug-susceptible TB, as long as patients complete the six- to nine-month treatment. A shorter TB regimen that is effective against all strains of TB is expected to increase the number of patients who complete treatment, increase cure rates, and lower toxic side effects, thereby limiting the rise of new resistant strains. A novel TB regimen that is also compatible with antiretroviral treatments would improve TB control and help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Completely novel drugs in the TB Alliance portfolio offer potential for treating multi and extensively drug-resistant TB (MDR- and XDR-TB).
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