Move afoot to develop low-cost drug for TB

The team is scrutinising two promising molecules created by pharmaceutical companies to develop  a new low-cost drug  for India, its neighbours and Africa as drug companies have agreed on providing non-exclusive licensing rights for the developing world, sources told Deccan Herald.

Rifampicin was the last TB medicine discovered in 1963. Since then scientists all over the world are trying to find out new drugs and vaccines against TB without much success so far. The risks involved in drug development are too high.

That is the reason TB Alliance—a global agency funded by pharmaceutical companies and non-profit outfits like Bill Gates Foundation —has turned to India's Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) platform looking for a break.

Two months ago, TB Alliance brought two molecules to OSDD. The first one is PA 824 developed by US scientists from the industry and universities in 2000 while the second molecule was developed by AstraZeneca in Bangalore three years ago. None have come anywhere close to the market, though the laboratory studies were promising.

The OSDD team at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research will study the two molecules threadbare in-silicon to find out the potential risks and benefits in the long run. The team will decide whether these molecules could be taken up for phase-II clinical trial costing millions.

Depending on the OSDD system-biology analysis, either one of both would be taken up for commercial development, which may take eight to ten  years. The country’s gain would be the non-exclusive marketing rights because of which Indian firms will be able to manufacture and sell the drug cheaply at home.

Both TB Alliance and AstraZeneca have accepted the conditions and are contended with their protected rights for the US and European markets, sources said, adding they agreed even to carry out the subsequent innovations on these two molecules in open source format.

With five million cases in a pool, South East Asia accounts for one third of global TB burden. The disease kills almost half-a-million persons every year, bulk of which are in India where close to two million new cases are added every year.

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