New academic-industry collaboration to develop new treatments for tuberculosis

Universities of Dundee and Cape Town form partnership with Bayer

Medicinal chemistry and biology experts at the Universities of Dundee (Scotland) and Cape Town (South Africa) have linked up with Bayer's pharmaceuticals division to develop new treatments for tuberculosis (TB).

The collaboration combines knowledge of TB biology, drug discovery and medicinal chemistry, with access to an industrial library of chemical compounds.

All three partners are already members of the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA), a programme launched in 2012 and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to identify novel therapies to reduce significantly the treatment time for TB. The new collaboration will optimise hits from the Bayer compound library that were identified within the TBDA programme, with the goal of developing them into potential preclinical drug candidates.

TB kills 1.5 million people globally every year, with more than nine million falling ill from the disease, mainly in developing countries. Although effective, current first-line therapies for TB are considered inadequate owing to the fact that they take up to six months to cure patients. The long treatment regimen contributes to high rates of treatment default, leading to increased disease transmission, drug resistance, and death.

The Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) at the University of Dundee and UCT’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D) are two of the leading centres in academia for drug discovery globally, particularly relating to diseases across the developing world. Both are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with DDU additionally funded by the Wellcome Trust. Scientists at both DDU and H3D recently announced the separate discovery of new antimalarial compounds.

In addition to H3D, UCT is home to the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) which, since its establishment in 2005, has gained a reputation as a global leader in TB and HIV research with an extensive network of national and international collaborations. The partnership with Bayer and Dundee will rely on the Molecular Mycobacteriology Research Unit (MMRU), which is funded by the South African Department of Science and Technology and the South African Medical Research Council, among others, for TB biology assays and expertise.

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