Seven pharmaceutical companies, including Sanofi and four research institutions working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have created a social innovation partnership to speed up the discovery of essential new treatments for tuberculosis (TB). This collaboration is known as the TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA) and will target the discovery of new TB drugs by collaborating on early-stage research. The other participating pharmaceutical companies are Abbott,AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck who will all open up targeted sections of their compound libraries and share data with each other. While the four research institutions are the Infectious Disease Research Institute; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH); Texas A&M University; and Weill Cornell Medical College.
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. Therefore, finding new and faster-acting TB drugs will need a new kind of social innovation partnership that connects the power of leading drug companies together.
Chris Viehbacher, CEO of Sanofi and speaking on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry partners says, “The TB Drug Accelerator establishes a new paradigm of cooperation in drug discovery. By working together, we can optimize our research and speed the development of one of the most pressing needs in global health.” Aided by nearly $20 million from the Gates Foundation, the partners officially launched this social innovation program in April 2012, and the long-term goal of the TBDA is to create a TB drug treatment that cures patients in only one month.
Existing drugs need six months to cure this disease, a lengthy process that contributes to 20-30 per cent of patients dropping out before completion. 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!
Breaking from traditional research and development practices, these companies will work together to develop the best prospects, regardless of where the drug originated. Therefore, the TBDA is a historic experiment in social innovation collaboration. Partnerships like this are critical to helping solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges of global health.
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