Targeting Latency: TB Alliance Hosts Workshop

January 26, 2003

The Alliance is convening a core group of leading scientists after this week's Keystone meeting on TB Genomics to assess how the latest science, including biological and chemical genomics, can best elucidate latency in tuberculosis and open new paths for TB drug development.

By identifying the best-validated targets for latency, the meeting aims to:

  1. Assist the TB Alliance in its portfolio development by identify best validated targets for latency as well as the best possible models for screening them
  2. Update the Scientific Blueprint for TB Drug Development - which described the state of TB science and gaps in research and development - and identify new paths for research and development in the field

Today one-third of the world's population carries TB. Most of these people are carrying latent infection that can reactivate to full-blown tuberculosis. A key priority for improved TB control is to shorten treatment in those with active TB, and to effectively target latent TB to ensure it doesn?t develop in the contagious, active form.

Central to both priorities is leveraging science to tackle the non-replicating, or latent, bacteria. The main reason that TB treatment takes six to nine months today is because the drugs must be taken long enough to ensure that no latent bacteria remain. A drug that targets latency is critical to improved therapy, reducing the spread of disease, and ultimately reversing the TB epidemic.

Traditional drug discovery focuses on actively replicating bacteria, not latent bacteria, the bulk of infecting bacteria in tuberculosis. Latency models for TB are still a work in progress. By leveraging recent scientific advances, we can lay out a framework for moving forward with latency drug research now. This will help expedite drug discovery, a key goal of the Alliance.

This meeting will advance both the Alliance's original Scientific Blueprint published in 2000 and help identify a "top ten" list of genes and proteins that play key roles in M. tuberculosis latency and appear to be amenable targets for drugs that inhibit function.