TB Drug Discovery Initiative

Partnership Objectives

  1. Accelerate early-stage drug discovery for the treatment of TB and MDR-TB.
  2. Inspire collaboration between specialists from around the world for the systematic exploration of vast, private molecular libraries in search of new TB treatments.

Less than one percent of estimated MDR-TB patients globally receive appropriate treatment. Less than one percent of estimated MDR-TB patients globally receive appropriate treatment. Copyright Infectious Disease Research Institute

What are the health needs and challenges?

Tuberculosis (TB), often thought of as a disease of the past, continues to plague the world’s most vulnerable populations. A curable disease, it claims the lives of 1.4 million people each year, according to the WHO. Ninety-eight (98) percent of these deaths occur in the developing world, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. More than 2 billion people, or roughly one-third of the world’s population, are infected with the microbes that cause TB. Of those infected, one in 10 will become sick with active TB.

The most popular vaccine used to treat TB was developed in the early 20th century using a bovine strain of the disease. Despite widespread use, the vaccine does not always work. It has been shown to protect against severe TB in children, but there is little evidence of effectiveness in adults. Furthermore, it can create a false-positive TB test in those who have been vaccinated.

To cure TB requires a regimen of several medicines that must be taken daily for six to nine months. But many patients fail to complete the treatment, or medication is incorrectly prescribed, which can lead to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

The battle against TB requires new, faster-acting medicines at affordable prices. The Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, launched in June 2007, is a nonprofit public/private partnership focused on accelerating early-stage TB drug discovery. The initiative is run from a research facility in Seattle, Washington, and operates in partnership with the Infectious Disease Research Institute, MSD, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Bringing together specialists from around the world for the systematic exploration of vast, private molecular libraries, the initiative has a primary goal of filling the pipeline with new clinical candidates for future TB drug development.

Lilly donated USD 15 million to launch the effort and has opened our library of more than 500,000 existing molecular compounds to test for possible TB treatments, including more effective treatments for drug-resistant strains. In 2008, the initiative announced its first acquisition of compounds for further development into drug candidates.

In November 2011, Lilly announced that it is providing more than USD 4 million in additional funding to the Infectious Disease Research Institute. The funding will allow IDRI to continue its early phase drug discovery efforts focused on identifying new and better therapies in the fight against tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant strains known as MDR-TB. In addition, Lilly will provide more than USD 1 million in-kind for volunteer time from Lilly scientists and access to the company's drug discovery expertise, chemical libraries, and research tools.

These additional commitments bring Lilly's total support of early stage TB drug discovery efforts through IDRI to more than USD 20 million — and Lilly's total funding of TB and MDR-TB efforts to more than USD 170 million.

IDRI is a member of the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, a not-for-profit public-private partnership focused on accelerating early stage drug discovery for potential new treatments for TB. TB and MDR-TB disproportionately affect people in countries with developing economies.

Tackling MDR-TB has proven challenging. Less than one percent of estimated MDR-TB patients globally receive appropriate treatment. Over the past eight years, Lilly has learned a lot about the myriad obstacles blocking patient access to diagnosis and treatment. The strategy of transferring technology has proved especially timely, as we realize now that the need for medicines is much greater than anyone imagined when we first began.

Removing barriers will take a focused, coordinated effort by everyone committed to stamping out TB. Success depends on a sustained, joint commitment by governments, NGOs, and businesses to bring an end to this disease.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

In November 2011, Lilly announced that it is providing more than USD 4 million in additional funding to the Infectious Disease Research Institute. The funding will allow IDRI to continue its early phase drug discovery efforts focused on identifying new and better therapies in the fight against tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant strains known as MDR-TB. In addition, Lilly will provide more than USD 1 million in-kind for volunteer time from Lilly scientists and access to the company's drug discovery expertise, chemical libraries, and research tools.

These additional commitments bring Lilly's total support of early stage TB drug discovery efforts through IDRI to more than USD 20 million — and Lilly's total funding of TB and MDR-TB efforts to more than USD 170 million.

Additionally, in 2011, Lilly announced the launch of a new open innovation platform designed to help build the company's pipeline of tomorrow and, from a philanthropic perspective, identify molecules that may have application for treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). The new platform, titled Open Innovation Drug Discovery, is supported by an innovative new website available at openinnovation.Lilly.com. It builds on the success of Lilly's Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative (PD2) that was launched in 2009 to facilitate research on molecules around the world that have the potential to ultimately be developed into medicines.

In addition to focusing on research areas in which Lilly has an internal strategic focus and deep expertise—cancer, endocrine, cardiovascular and neuroscience—the open innovation platform now will serve as a bridge between external scientists and the not-for-profit Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, whose mission is to accelerate early-stage drug discovery and help identify the TB medicines of the future.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Eli Lilly and Company , MSD

Partner(s) Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), Jubilant Biosys, Microbial Chemistry Research Foundation, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Summit plc, US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Yourencore

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

Therapeutic Focus Infectious Diseases

Disease(s) Tuberculosis

Program Type(s) Research & Development - Development of Treatments

Targeted Population(s) Patients in needs of treatment

Region(s) North America, South Asia

Number of Countries 2

Country(ies) India, United States of America

Research Country(ies) United States of America

Start Date 2007

More information Lilly TB Drug Discovery

Anticipated completion date Ongoing