Almost €400 million has been invested by IMI through two projects, ERA4TB and UNITE4TB, to find new treatments for TB, the second-most fatal infectious disease after COVID19
IMI has launched two separate projects that, when combined, represent the biggest effort to combat tuberculosis (TB) in history.
UNITE4TB, launched in 2021, is the first and only initiative of its kind in the world. The project is building a platform for carrying out clinical trials of new drug combinations for TB. They will focus on phase 2 and 'phase 3-ready' clinical trials. The partners have access to the majority of the most innovative anti-TB drugs at an advanced stage of development and will jointly test their clinical candidates and share research results. The consortium has a budget of €185 million and has 30 partners. ERA4TB, launched in 2020, has a budget of €208 million and 31 partners, and is focusing on pre-clinical development of combination therapies from pre-clinical to phase 1-ready.
The methodology for both projects is the same. They are investigating the possibility of testing TB drugs in parallel as opposed to sequentially – the ‘racetrack’ concept – an approach that will help test the safety and efficacy of drug combinations of over a dozen drug candidates at the same time.
Both projects combined bring the total investment to almost €400 million. The hope is that these efforts will produce TB treatment regimens that could ultimately become the global gold standard. The projects have attracted attention and contributions from global partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Global TB Alliance, Critical Path Institute, and others. The projects are part of the IMI AMR Accelerator programme.
According to the WHO, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID19. Though it’s treatable, strains that are resistant to one or more TB medicines have been documented all over the world. Current treatment is very long, lasting six months at least. This lengthy treatment time makes it more likely that antibiotic resistance can build. The result is what’s known as MDR-TB (mutidrug-resistant TB). The aim of both projects is to improve the life of TB patients by reducing the duration of the treatment and, by doing so, improve adherence to treatment while limiting all potential side effects.