About half a century has passed since a new tuberculosis drug was put to use, and in that time the challenges to successful treatment of the disease have only grown, with bacteria adapting faster to conditions that allowed it to flourish than science and funding for research. Morphing into forms that require from months to years of treatment, becoming, in some forms, virtually incurable, tuberculosis has had a head start, scientists say, that catching up to will require the development of not one drug, but multiple drugs.
Aiming to speed the process, drug maker Sanofi, which created rifampicin to treat tuberculosis in the early 1960s, will collaborate in a three-year partnership with the TB Alliance on three projects to develop promising compounds the company has identified. According to company material, the projects will explore a compound which researchers believe has potential to treat all forms of tuberculosis, investigate another class of natural derivatives that has shown “impressive” activity against tuberculosis bacteria and identify future candidates for development among chemical compounds in Sanofi’s collection. It is an agreement researchers hope will get them more quickly to a drug that can be tested and distributed — a process that alone can take half a decade or more in itself. An estimated 1.5 million people a year die of tuberculosis.
Sanofi is part of an agreement with the World Health Organization, the TB Alliance, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and Tibotec, under the Critical Path to TB Drug Regimens Initiative, launched in 2010, to share information and speed the development of new regimens.