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Lilly, Institute Partner on Tuberculosis Drug Discovery

Tuberculosis bacteria

Tuberculosis bacteria (

4 November 2016. Drug maker Eli Lilly and Company is continuing its collaboration with Infectious Disease Research Institute to discovery new drugs that treat tuberculosis. Lilly is expected to provide a combination of financial support and in-kind services to Idri totaling $15 million over 5 years.

While the number of cases of tuberculosis is falling worldwide, World Health Organization reports in 2014, some 9.6 million new cases of TB were diagnosed with 1.5 million deaths. Many of the cases occur in people with HIV, with 400,000 deaths in 2014 reported among people who are HIV-positive. TB occurs more often in men than women, with the number of TB deaths among men in 2014 nearly twice that of women. Moreover, the threat of drug-resistant strains of TB is increasing.

Idri, in Seattle, is a not-for-profit enterprise that addresses global health challenges with development of diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments for diseases normally getting little attention from pharmaceutical companies. In addition to tuberculosis, the organization has programs underway for leprosy, Zika virus, the parasitic disease leishmaniasis, and other human and animal disorders. Idri works largely through alliances with foundations, governments, and international health agencies.

Lilly, headquartered in Indianapolis, began its partnership with Idri in 2007, along with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of National Institutes of Health. The collaboration led to Idri starting up its drug discovery program, where Lilly provided staff and specialized lab facilities, as well as access to the company’s library of compounds to screen for new drug candidates.

“The partnership marked one of the first times a large pharmaceutical company opened its compound library to an outside entity,” says Tanya Parish, Idri’s vice-president for drug discovery, in an institute statement. “We began screening those compounds to find out if there was potential for TB drugs. To date, we’ve screened more than 500,000 compounds.”

Parish adds that Lilly’s participation, “helped us move through the phases of the traditional drug development funnel, from hit evaluation to formal hit assessment, then hits to leads followed by lead optimization.” The partnership’s extension aims to screen for more drug candidates, generating leads that can be optimized into at least one more preclinical treatment candidate. Lilly is expected to provide $7.5 million in the next 5 years, as well as professional and technical services and staff time valued at another $7.5 million.

Idri and Lilly were also instrumental in establishing the TB Drug Accelerator in August 2012, a consortium of 8 drug companies, university scientists, research institutes, and government science agencies that join forces for TB drug discovery. The TB Drug Accelerator, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conducts early-stage drug discovery, with results shared by the participants, that aims for a TB drug regimen curing patients in 1 month, rather than the 6 months now needed for treatment.

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