Dundee joins ERA4TB international project fighting tuberculosis

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The ERA4TB (European Regimen Accelerator for Tuberculosis) project is a public-private initiative dedicated to the development of drugs against tuberculosis. With a team of more than 30 organisations and a budget of over 200 million euros, ERA4TB will focus on developing a new, improved tuberculosis treatment. The partners will share their expertise, knowledge and resources to rapidly progress new candidate drugs into clinical trials.

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death by an infectious disease worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 10 million people became ill with tuberculosis in 2018, and two million died. Even though the incidence of tuberculosis is declining, the drug-resistant form constitutes a growing threat to the safety of the world’s population. It is in this spirit that the UN has pledged to end the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030 through joint action of its member states.

David Barros-Aguirre, Project Lead for ERA4TB and VP and Head of Tuberculosis Research, Global Health R&D, GSK said, “We are very excited about the start of ERA4TB.

“The ultimate goal is to deliver an innovative and differentiated combination regimen for the treatment of TB, which can play a key role in the elimination agenda.”

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Standard tuberculosis treatment is based on a combination regimen of four drugs that were all developed more than 60 years ago. Treatment lasts for at least six months and, in the case of resistance to the standard drugs, can be as long as two years.

The current drugs are inefficient by today’s standards and a new, faster-acting and safer treatment is required to reduce the length of therapy and to overcome the menace of drug-resistant strains. Until now, the development of new drugs has been slow and their incorporation into tuberculosis treatment regimens conducted in a sequential manner.

Stewart Cole, Scientific leader of ERA4TB and President of the Institut Pasteur, said, “ERA4TB has assembled an impressive array of resources to seamlessly harness the agility and innovation of academia with the pragmatism and professionalism of pharma. I am confident that this powerful European initiative will speed the path to TB elimination.”

According to Juan José Vaquero, project coordinator from UC3M (University Carlos III Madrid) and leader of the imaging team, “ERA4TB will change the paradigm for the development of new drugs by adopting a flexible and modular collaboration scheme in which research efforts can be rapidly mobilised to where they are most needed allowing several molecules to be investigated simultaneously. This will save both time and money.”

The University of Dundee’s involvement in the project is centred on its Drug Discovery Unit, which has an established track record in tackling infectious and tropical diseases including TB.

Professor Paul Wyatt, Head of the Drug Discovery Unit, said, “We are excited to be part of this international initiative which allows us to build upon our existing efforts to target new treatments for tuberculosis. We have all the capabilities required to work with partners to deliver preclinical candidates.

ERA4TB is sponsored by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the European pharmaceutical industry (via EFPIA) under the auspices of the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking and part of the AMR Accelerator umbrella.

 
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