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Mar 24, 2008
 |  BioCentury  |  Product Development

Pushing a new model for TB drugs

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. has been working quietly on a tuberculosis drug development program for a year, but now is looking for philanthropic funding to advance the program. The idea is to recapitulate its collaboration with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which has produced two novel compounds that are in Phase II and Phase I trials.

Vertex disclosed its TB program at a recent partnering forum organized by BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to facilitating the application of the biotech industry's skills and resources to neglected diseases of the developing world.

The company has been working internally on TB biology and establishing partnerships with teams in China and the U.S. that have critical research and clinical expertise. Vertex has one compound in lead optimization and has identified other targets, President and CEO Joshua Boger told BioCentury.

Boger said that based on progress to date, there is a scientific opportunity to develop breakthrough TB therapies, but he is also convinced that the commercial return would not justify the effort needed to develop them.

Thus, he is asking philanthropic organizations like the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development to modify the conventional venture philanthropy approaches by investing in Vertex's TB program and allowing the company flexibility to manage a large-scale, multifaceted attack on the disease.

The need for better treatments has drawn a number of pharma companies to the TB arena, including several that are collaborating with not-for-profit players. Bayer AG has licensed its moxifloxacin fluoroquinolone antibiotic to the TB Alliance. Bayer is supplying the drug to clinical trial sites, and has committed to support regulatory filings and to make it affordable and accessible in developing countries if it is approved for TB.

GlaxoSmithKline plc is looking for anti-TB activity in three classes of compounds. The TB Alliance pays for half the cost of personnel working on GSK's TB projects.

The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, one of three research institutes funded by Novartis AG, is developing novel treatments for multi-drug resistant...

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