February 23, 2015

Research Roundup: A new drug for tuberculosis, contraceptive research and development, drug-resistant malaria, and more

Senior Program Assistant

The TB Alliance, a member of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, announced last week that it will be starting Phase 1 clinical trials for a new tuberculosis (TB) drug candidate. The drug, known as TBA-354, is the first new TB drug to advance to clinical trials in six years, despite the paucity of highly effective and easily administered TB treatments. TBA-354 was developed by the TB Alliance, in partnership with the University of Auckland and the University of Illinois-Chicago, using compounds from the nitroimidazole class of chemicals, which are known to be effective against drug-resistant strands of TB. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that US$2 billion per year is needed for TB research and development (R&D), yet in 2013, only $676.7 million was invested.

The Atlantic took an in-depth look at gaps in reproductive health R&D, highlighting common side effects of leading contraceptives and reviewing the results of clinical trials conducted between 2008 and 2011 for a contraceptive injection for men. The article also identifies contraceptive technologies currently in the pipeline, including a reversible version of a vasectomy, an improved diaphragm, a remote-controlled implant, and more.

A drug-resistant form of malaria endemic to Cambodia and found in Southeastern Myanmar has spread north to the border Myanmar shares with India. While the strain is resistant to artemisinin, the most effective agent against malaria, it can still be combatted with other drugs. Dr. Charles Woodrow, the lead author on the study, explained that in Cambodia, treatment for the resistant strain involves "combining three drugs, extending courses from three days up to five days." Scientists fear that if this new strand were to establish a foothold in India, it could rapidly spread across the globe.

WHO estimates that US$750 million annually is needed to prevent and treat neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), yet current foreign aid amounts to only $300 million per year. Due to the financial climate in donor countries, WHO is calling for increased domestic funding in countries where NTDs are endemic. Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of NTDs at WHO, has stressed the importance of interventions that combat multiple NTDs, such as large-scale, affordable vector control programs and diagnostic interventions.