AstraZeneca (AZ) has teamed up with US-Indian biopharma Cellworks to research treatments for strains of tuberculosis (TB) that are resistant to standard drugs.
The partnership, which is supported by UK research charity the Wellcome Trust, will see the two companies pool knowledge on existing anti-infective drugs and attempt to find an effective combination therapy for multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there were about 650,000 cases of MDR-TB present across the globe in 2010, with the condition's primary cause being mismanagement of TB treatment that is often based on an ad-hoc regimen.
AZ's approach is to use Cellworks' predictive platform to artificially model drugs for MDR-TB and identify combinations that are likely to have the highest efficacy and lowest possible toxic burden compared to current combinations.
AZ will then validate the top ten most effective combinations identified by Cellworks in its laboratories in India, before deciding whether to develop any potential products even further.
It is hoped that this platform, which has already been used in finding treatments in oncology and autoimmune disorders, will speed up the traditionally lengthy and expensive process of filtering several thousand possible combinations into the ones with the most chance of success.
Dr Richard Seabrook, head of business development at the Wellcome Trust, said: “MDR-TB is both a major global healthcare threat and a scientific challenge. Tackling it requires new approaches to drug discovery and we are delighted to be supporting this collaboration which has a strong mix of both innovation and drug development expertise.”
The announcement comes two months after the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) called for a new approach in the R&D model for tuberculosis among other diseases prevalent in the developing world.
Improvements suggested by the IFPMA included open compound databases and research grants, such as the one put up by the Wellcome Trust.
Other companies involved in developing treatments for MDR-TB include Johnson & Johnson, which has recently filed for US approval of bedaquiline, and Otsuka, which is currently investigating delamanid.