H3 Drug Discovery Partnership

Partnership objective

This partnership aims to identify and develop novel therapies to treat patients affected by TB.

A meeting point for Western and African expertise to collaborate on solving problems like Africa's substantial burden of disease. A meeting point for Western and African expertise to collaborate on solving problems like Africa's substantial burden of disease. Copyright H3D

What are the health needs and challenges?

It has been a long standing challenge to help low-and-middle income countries battle diseases, and while examples of progress have been made, including the eradication of smallpox, and the near eradication of polio, developing nations are still disproportionately burdened by infectious diseases that devastate lives and livelihoods, and put a continuous drag on struggling economies.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a leading cause of death owing to an infectious disease, claiming around 1.5 million lives each year. Standard TB treatment requires six months combination therapy and, for drug-resistant TB, this extends to 18 to 24 months. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a shorter, better tolerated antibiotic regimen for the treatment of drug-sensitive TB, as well as a combination therapy that will be more effective in the treatment of drug-resistant TB.

South Africa carries a massive TB burden, and this is exacerbated by co-morbidities including HIV and diabetes. In addition, the country is among the top four globally with the highest prevalence of drug-resistant TB disease (TB-in-South Africa).

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

H3-D is the first drug discovery centre in Africa, with an initial research focus on TB and malaria, two top medical needs on the continent. Last year, the first compound developed by H3-D was endorsed by the Medicines for Malaria Venture as a pre-clinical anti-malarial candidate.

Through this partnership, Novartis supports the Centre’s efforts to bridge the gap between basic and clinical studies, training a new generation of African scientists with key skills required for drug discovery and development – integrating medicinal chemistry, disease biology, and pharmacology.

For example, through this collaboration Novartis helped H3-D to develop an FDA-­level clinical site to conduct Phase I clinical studies of new medicines discovered by the Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Additionally, Novartis supports H3-­D in the design of medicines against tuberculosis (TB), and conduct joint programs on malaria research with the Singapore-­based Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD).As part of the NITD-H3D collaboration, NITD transferred its early TB research projects to H3D (including assays, early discovery compounds, etc.) along with expertise and knowledge (through a comprehensive workshop with NITD scientists at H3D).

In a major development in 2013, H3D was awarded funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for malaria and TB drug discovery and, subsequently, was elected to the Tuberculosis Drug Accelerator (TBDA). Within the context of the TBDA, further collaborations were initiated with the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) and Elli Lilly, as well as Celgene Global Health. H3D also partners with the HIT-TB consortium, taking advantage of powerful collaborations with NIH research groupings as well as leading public and private institutions in exploring advanced research models to identify new medicines to treat TB.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

The current partnership portfolio comprises several programs with new chemical series ready to be tested on animals.  In addition, multiple chemical series identified from whole-cell screens of pharmaceutical libraries such as Celgene’s are being evaluated in order to deliver pre-clinical treatments that can be effective against TB in humans.


Partnership information

Company(ies) Celgene , Eli Lilly and Company , Novartis

Partner(s) African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bio Ventures for Global Health, Center for World Health & Medicine, Centre for Proteomic & Genomic Research (CPGR), Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), Hager Bioscience, Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), Lead Molecular Design, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), South African Department of Science and Technology, South African Medical Research Council, South African National Research Foundation, South African Technology Innovation Agency, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), US National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Government, NGOs, Other Business, PDPs

Therapeutic Focus Infectious Diseases

Disease(s) Malaria, Tuberculosis

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Technology Transfer - Scientific Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing, Research & Development - Development of Treatments, Research & Development - Operations Research

Targeted Population(s) General population, Health professionals

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) South Africa

Research Country(ies) South Africa

Start Date 2012

More information H3D Website

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« This partnership will augment support already provided by the South African government's Department of Science & Technology and Technology Innovation Agency to build drug discovery and development capabilities on the African continent. »

Professor Kelly Chibale, H3-D Director