TB Alliance and Partners Form Multidisciplinary Center for Translational TB Drug Research

New collaboration, supported by U.S. National Institutes of Health, to produce two new clinical stage TB drug candidates

May 9, 2019

NEW YORK, NY (May 9, 2019)—The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded TB Alliance a Center of Excellence for Translational Research (CETR) grant (U19AI142735) for tuberculosis (TB) drug development. New translational research to develop novel anti-TB medicines is being carried out with partners at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and Research Triangle Institute.

“Expanding the global portfolio of new TB drug candidates, from which we can assemble tomorrow’s shorter and simpler cures, is crucial in the fight against TB,” said Mel Spigelman, M.D., president and CEO of TB Alliance. “We are excited to advance this work with our partners and grateful for NIAID’s support.” 

The five-year project has initiated with an NIAID commitment of $5.5 million in first-year funding through March 2020, totaling up to $28.4 million by 2024. The main objective of the CETR is to develop two new anti-TB drugs that, in combination and with other novel drugs, can be used to treat all forms of TB in less than two months. The compounds under development modulate protein production and degradation as an integrated approach to rapid sterilization of drug-sensitive and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). This multidisciplinary consortium brings together key expertise on three major drug targets that are components of the complex and coordinated network of biological processes essential for propagation of TB bacteria.

TB is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide. In 2017, 10 million people fell ill from active TB and 1.6 million people died. Drug-resistant TB is on the rise, with more than half a million cases of MDR-TB reported in 2017. The epidemic is largely fueled by lengthy and complex treatments for drug-sensitive disease—which typically lasts 6 months and requires four drugs—and much more complex, burdensome, and less effective cures for drug-resistant forms. For people with MDR-TB, treatment lasts from 9 to 24 months and often requires more than 14,000 total pills per patient.


Protein degradation, a mechanism of action targeted by this research collaboration. Click to watch an animation.

At the 2018 United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB, world leaders committed to investing in and accelerating the global effort to end TB. While the global portfolio of new drugs has begun to show signs of progress over the past decade, an increasingly robust and diverse portfolio of new TB drugs is urgently needed to introduce treatments that are affordable, safe, shorter in duration and more effective than currently-available treatment options.

NIAID’s CETR program was founded to support translational research activities ranging from early discovery-based efforts to late-stage preclinical development or medical countermeasures for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Potentially promising compounds have faced significant challenges in attracting the long-term funding needed to evaluate their potential safety and efficacy in treating people with TB. The estimated $1.3 billion annual funding gap for TB research and development is an obstacle to developing the new tools – including drugs – that are needed to end the global TB pandemic.


Protein synthesis, a mechanism of action targeted by this research collaboration. Click to watch an animation.

About TB Alliance

TB Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding faster-acting and affordable drug regimens to fight TB. Through innovative science and with partners around the globe, we aim to ensure equitable access to faster, better TB cures that will advance global health and prosperity. TB Alliance operates with support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research through KfW, Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, Indonesia Health Fund, Irish Aid, Medical Research Council (United Kingdom), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom Department for International Development, UK Department of Health, and the United States Agency for International Development.

About CETR

In 2014, NIAID established the Centers of Excellence for Translational Research (CETR) program. Supported translational activities will range from very early discovery-based efforts to late-stage preclinical development. The CETR program builds on work of previous NIAID-supported research and development programs, including the Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research (RCE) program, and is intended to complement and enhance ongoing translational and product development activities.

About Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.

About UIC

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research institute located in the heart of the Illinois Medical District. The Institute for Tuberculosis Research is located in the College of Pharmacy, which is ranked #7 in the U.S. with respect to grant funding. The Institute for Tuberculosis Research is dedicated to the discovery of new treatments for TB and other bacterial infections and provides bioassay support for many institutions worldwide while also leveraging the expertise of College of Pharmacy faculty in the areas of natural products chemistry and structural biology. In this CETR, the Institute’s efforts rely upon key collaborations with Myongji University in South Korea and Princeton University. 

About John Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM), headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is an $8 billion integrated global health enterprise and one of the leading academic health care systems in the United States. JHM unites physicians and scientists of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with the organizations, health professionals and facilities of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. JHM’s vision, “Together, we will deliver the promise of medicine,” is supported by its mission to improve the health of the community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research and clinical care. Diverse and inclusive, JHM educates medical students, scientists, health care professionals and the public; conducts biomedical research; and provides patient-centered medicine to prevent, diagnose and treat human illness. JHM operates six academic and community hospitals, four suburban health care and surgery centers, and 40 primary and specialty care outpatient sites under the umbrella of Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. JHM extends health care into the community and globally through Johns Hopkins Home Care Group, Johns Hopkins Medicine International and Johns Hopkins HealthCare. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, opened in 1889, has been consistently ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report throughout the survey’s 29-year history. For more information about Johns Hopkins Medicine; its research, education and clinical programs; and for the latest health, science and research news, visit www.hopkinsmedicine.org.