Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Academia Sinica targets drug-resistant TB strains

JOINT PROJECT The institution’s president said TB has a higher mortality rate than swine flu and is one of the most serious infectious diseases Taiwan has faced


Academia Sinica and the Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) signed an agreement yesterday to develop new medications for drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis (TB).

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) and IDRI senior vice president Curtis Malloy as part of the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative, a nonprofit public-private partnership aimed at accelerating research and development of new treatments for TB, including drug-resistant strains.

The initiative’s primary partners are Eli Lilly and Company and the IDRI.

In 2007, there were an estimated 9.27 million cases of tuberculosis worldwide, an increase from 8.3 million cases in 2000, Malloy said, citing a WHO report.

A large proportion of the world’s population is likely infected with TB, Malloy said, adding that there is an urgent need to develop new antibiotic drugs.

TB is one of the most serious infectious diseases Taiwan has faced and an increase in the number cases involving multi-drug resistant TB strains has sparked concern in the medical sector, Wong said.

Taiwan saw 16,742 new cases of TB in 2005. That number dropped to 15,378 in 2006 and 14,554 in 2007, the Centers for Disease Control said.

Wong said TB has a higher mortality rate than the new strain of the A(H1N1) flu. Most swine flu patients recover within a week, while drug-resistant tuberculosis has more severe consequences, he said.

Gail Cassell, an IDRI member and adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said she believed Academia Sinica, with its archive of more than 2 million drug compounds, would provide a broad selection of chemicals for the project.

Cassell said the top research institute in Taiwan also has fast screening and genotyping techniques that are expected to increase the success of the initiative.

Calling Wong one of the top researchers in the field of chemistry, Cassell said she was happy to have this chance to work with him.

Under the agreement, Academia Sinica is responsible for the initial research and will own the intellectual property rights to the results.

Later, the research institute will work with international pharmaceutical manufacturers to facilitate the discovery of new TB drugs and vaccines, Wong said.

The project marks Academia Sinica’s first attempt to develop new medicines via research, development and innovation, he said.

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