PharmExec Blog

First Chinese Product Development Partnership Targets Tuberculosis, Malaria, AIDS

A Chinese scientific foundation and a not-for-profit tuberculosis organization announced a partnership aimed at developing new medicines for underserved public health diseases.

Billed as the first Chinese product development partnership (PDP), the Global Health R&D Center of China (GHRC) hopes to discover and develop new treatments for tuberculosis (TB) and other diseases by collaborating with pharmaceutical companies, the Chinese government, academic institutions and other groups, according to a statement.

The GHRC was created through a partnership between The International Scientific Exchange Foundation of China (ISEFC), a translational sciences group, and the TB Alliance, a not-for-profit organization focused on developing new and better TB medications.

Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of the TB Alliance, said in an email that pharmaceutical companies stand to gain from sharing resources, such as intellectual property, with the GHRC. “The GHRC will offer companies financial and world-class discovery and clinical development resources to advance compounds for neglected diseases that they otherwise may not be able to [develop] on their own,” said Spigelman. “In addition, companies will establish strong working relationships with key discovery, regulatory, and clinical resources in the fastest-growing pharmaceutical market in the world.”

The TB Alliance has drug development partnerships with AstraZeneca, Bayer, GSK, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, and Tibotec, and is currently managing three drug candidates in clinical trials, according to organization’s website. Spigelman declined to specify which compounds the TB Alliance itself will contribute to the GHRC.

“The vision of the GHRC is to focus on translational medicine for public health and bridge the innovation gap that currently exists into new treatments and cures,” said Geng Jianyue, secretary-general assistant of the ISEFC, in a statement. In China alone, some 1.3 million people develop active TB annually, and 150,000 die from the disease each year, according to the TB Alliance.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report found that only a 10% of the multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases identified globally received treatment in 2009. The WHO report called multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis a global epidemic, and TB in general kills almost 2 million people each year, according to the TB Alliance. The announcement of the GHRC coincides with World TB Day, which is celebrated on March 24 each year, to commemorate Robert Koch’s discovery of TB bacillus, the cause of the disease.

While access to treatment remains a major problem in many of the 27 countries most burdened with MDR-TB, the treatments themselves, many over forty years old, present further difficulties, since first-line drugs like isoniazid, ethambutol, pyrazinamide and rifampin require a six to nine month regimen. Failure to adhere to a treatment regimen can result in drug resistant strains of TB, which require second-line drugs, many with severe side effects.

In addition to developing new TB treatments and addressing other public health diseases in China, the GHRC will also develop compounds for the rest of the developing world, according to Spigelman. “Global development programs will likely be partnered with disease-specific PDPs or with global pharmaceutical companies, who will then work with GHRC to register the compounds throughout the world,” he said.

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