Stewart Cole leads major consortium to identify new tb drugs
14.03.11 - The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has joined with AstraZeneca, sanofi-aventis, the Universities of Pavia, Uppsala and Cambridge, and 19 other research groups from 13 different countries, to form the More Medicines for Tuberculosis (MM4TB) consortium, which aims to develop new drugs for successful and shorter treatment of Tuberculosis (TB). Funding is from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the consortium is led by TB expert Professor Stewart Cole from EPFL.
Every year, 1.8 million people worldwide die from TB. Today's TB drugs are nearly 50 years old and must be taken for six to nine months for drug-sensitive disease and up to 24 months for drug-resistant disease. Long, demanding treatment schedules prove too much for many patients and the resulting erratic or inconsistent treatment can result in drug resistance, treatment failure or death.
The MM4TB research consortium has been assembled to discover anti-infective agents that will combat TB. Evolved from the FP6 project, New Medicines for TB (NM4TB) - which successfully delivered a candidate drug for clinical development two years ahead of schedule - the MM4TB team will apply an integrated approach that includes tripartite screening strategies and medicinal chemistry, functional genomics and structural biology. This combination of approaches is a broad strategy to discover new compounds, perform pharmacological validation, identify targets, and analyze variety mechanisms of action during Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb) infection.
"MM4TB is arguably the strongest consortium yet established for TB drug discovery" says Professor Cole "and we are proud to combine the innovative skills of academia with the drug discovery know-how of big pharma and biotechs."
Dr. Balganesh Tanjore, head of Innovative Science at AstraZeneca’s R&D India, said: “AstraZeneca is excited to continue its support for research surrounding TB. Building on our firm foundation from our prior work on the NM4TB project, and exploiting its proprietary pharmacophores, we are hopeful that MM4TB will also uncover new drugs for TB treatment.”
MM4TB will employ novel whole cell and phenotypic approaches for M. tb, in conjunction with a prioritized list of validated targets, seeking to generate novel drug leads. A major objective of this initiative is to validate at least five new drug targets pharmacologically and discover at least one family of candidate drugs (CD). These CD can be transferred to biotechnology companies or pharmaceutical partners for further development. The involvement of two leading pharmaceutical companies in MM4TB is a major asset; in its previous form as NM4TB (New Medicines for Tuberculosis) the consortium successfully discovered the benzothiazinone (BTZ) series, now in late stage preclinical development.
Prof. Didier Trono, Dean of the EPFL's Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “Consortia such as MM4TB are vital to drug discovery for neglected diseases and EPFL is proud to host this flagship project.”