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Stalled research funding threatens 'End TB' ambitions

USA, 30 November 2015

Tag report
Source: © 2015 TAG Treatment Action Group

Funding for tuberculosis research has stalled dangerously and increased investments are needed to meet global eradication targets, a report warns.

The report, published on 30 November, shows that TB research funding decreased by more than US$12 million between 2013 and 2014, a drop of almost two per cent.

The report also found that funding has stalled since 2009 - a flat funding scenario that corresponded to a real-terms cut in scientific communities where costs have been rising.

At the same time the need for more diagnostic tools and drugs for TB is growing, says the 2015 Report of Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends, produced by the US-based Treatment Action Group.

The news comes as the World Health Organization launches its End TB Strategy, aiming to stop the epidemic in its tracks globally by 2035. More research and development is one of the strategy’s three 'pillars'.

Writing in the report, Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, calls the funding situation for TB "ugly".

Funding has plateaued at just under US$700 million per year since 2009 after a period of growth.

"I have big doubts that investments in the $600 millions will lead us anywhere where we can make a difference in terms of new tools and ending TB," Ditiu says in the report.

The WHO's Global TB Report 2015, published at the end of October, estimated the global gap in R&D funding for TB at US$1.3 billion.

A handful of donors still dominate

In 2014 two US-based funders, the National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, contributed 44 per cent of the global R&D spend on TB.

While funding from public institutions and multilateral groups increased in 2014, philanthropic contributions decreased by US$21m and from the private sector by US$13.4m.

The BRICS group of emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - was criticised for slow spending.

According to the report, the bloc held 46 per cent of the world's TB cases and 40 per cent of TB deaths. But the group managed only 3.6 per cent of global TB research spending.

Africa's top funder was the South African Medical Research Council, which contributed US$2.5m to the global pot. The country's Department of Science and Technology contributed US$1.5m.

However, South Africa was ranked fourth in the world in terms of its TB R&D spend by TAG, when research spending was adjusted for GDP.

The report warns that business as usual will not be able to meet the demands on R&D funding. "New money will need to come from new players and will need to be spent collaboratively, including through innovative platforms that enable TB R&D to be financed and owned jointly," it states.


Parliamentary questions: Funding of research into new tuberculosis drugs

European Parliament, 16 June 2015

Question for written answer
to the Commission
Rule 130
Elena Gentile (S&D)

Funding of research into new tuberculosis drugs

The WHO reports some two billion cases of tuberculosis worldwide. Nine million people catch the disease each year, and 1.5 million die of it: in Italy alone, the WHO estimates that there were 3 000 cases in 2013.

The spread of multi-drug-resistant strains makes the disease more difficult to treat, raises the costs of health systems (it is estimated that EUR 10 billion is needed for the purpose), and jeopardises the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

The approach focusing exclusively on vaccination has proven ineffective in the short term, and needs to be replaced by research and development relating to new drugs.

In Horizon 2020, the Commission did not confirm the EUR 20.2 million in funding which was earmarked in the 7th Framework Programme for drugs research, instead funding only two vaccine projects (EMI - TB and TBVAC2020).

This decision is worrying the scientific community, discouraging our researchers, and endangering the containment of the disease and efforts to combat drug resistance. Can the Commission explain the lack of funding for research into new tuberculosis drugs?

Can it also outline the European strategy against TB and indicate what measures it intends to take to support and render more effective the work of European researchers?

Original language of question: IT

European Parliament, 16 July 2015

Answer given by Mr Moedas on behalf of the Commission

In FP7(1), the EU supported nine research projects to develop better drugs against tuberculosis with a contribution of nearly EUR 27.5 million: NATT(2), Nostress(3), DPRETB(4), Chembio4tb(5), Orchid(6), MM4TB(7), Openmedchem(8), Coopera-TB(9) and Cyclon HIT(10). Four projects are still ongoing: two will finish in 2016 and two in 2018.

Tuberculosis control continues to be a priority for the Commission(11) under Horizon 2020, the framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020), including in the second Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI2)(12) and in the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP2) programme with sub-Saharan Africa(13). So far, the EDCTP2 programme has launched a call on diagnostic tools for poverty-related diseases and is preparing another call on the improved treatment and clinical management of poverty-related diseases, including tuberculosis.

The Commission has also worked together with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to develop a new pilot financing tool to stimulate investment in the development of new treatments, vaccines and diagnostics for infectious diseases. This pilot was launched on 15 June 2015 as part of the InnovFin (EU Finance for Innovators) programme(14), and is managed by the EIB.

(1) The Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (FP7, 2007-2013).



(4) http://cord/



(7) http://cord/






(13) http://www./


Tenth MM4TB Consortium Meeting

Paris, France, 29 - 30 June 2015

The tenth Consortium Meeting (CM10) was hosted by Prof. Pedro Alzari and Prof. Roland Brosch at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France on 29 - 30 July 2015.

There were 63 registered participants. All beneficiaries were represented by at least one person with the exception of Cellworks and the CNRS/Institut Pasteur of Lille.

Dr Ken Duncan, Dr Tanjore Balganesh and Professor Philip Butcher of the Scientific Advisory Board were present to assess progress.

The prizes for best presentations by young researchers were won by Jérémie Piton (EPFL), Natalia Comino (EPV/EHU) and Caroline Foo (EPFL).

The outstanding contribution of the late Professor Barry Furr OBE, Chair of the MM4TB Scientific Advisory Board to MM4TB and its preceeding project NM4TB was celebrated by the participants of the meeting. A hommage to Barry by Dr Tanjore Balganesh, colleague and an ex-Vice President of Astra Zeneca was followed by a minute's applause. The first Barry Furr memorial lecture was then delivered by Dr Giulia Manina of the Institut Pasteur.

The eleventh Consortium Meeting (CM11) will hosted by Prof. Giovanna Riccardi at the University of Pavia in Pavia, Italy on 11 - 12 January 2016.

MM4TB researchers at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, 30 June 2015

Innovative Medicines for Tuberculosis (iM4TB) Foundation announces Nobel Prize Winner Françoise Barré-Sinoussi as Patron

Lausanne, Switzerland, 30 April 2015

Francoise Barre-Sinnousi
Professor Françoise Barré-SinoussiSource: © 2014 EPFL

French virologist Professor Barré-Sinoussi has worked at the Institut Pasteur in Paris since 1971 and co-discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS in 1983. On 6 October 2008, she and Professor Luc Montagnier were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for their discovery. Amongst her other distinctions, Prof. Barré-Sinoussi is a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour. She received an Honorary doctorate from EPFL on 14 October 2014.

Prof. Barré-Sinoussi said: "On 15 July 2004, Nelson Mandela, who was diagnosed with early stage TB in 1988, reminded us that we cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB. He noted that while TB is too often a death sentence for people with AIDS, it does not have to be this way. "Prof. Barré-Sinoussi added: "I am happy to support and encourage iM4TB's work on TB drug development and applaud their aim to stop this disease that kills three people every minute worldwide."

Professor Stewart Cole, Chairman of the Board of Governors of iM4TB added: "Nelson Mandela noted that we have known how to cure TB for more than 50 years and he stated that what we have lacked is the will and the resources to quickly diagnose people with TB and get them the treatment they need.

The current standard TB combination therapy for drug-sensitive TB is lengthy, lasting six months and is not effective against drug-resistant cases.

iM4TB is bridging the gap between scientific discovery and the market in order to provide affordable TB treatment to everyone in the world.

Nobel laureate Barré-Sinoussi's support is particularly welcome as those with an HIV infection are 30 times more likely to develop TB than the rest of the population."

EPFL tuberculosis non-profit receives major grant

Lausanne, Switzerland, 16 March 2015

Source: © 2015 iM4TB

EPFL spin-off "Innovative Medicines for Tuberculosis" (iM4TB) has been awarded nearly USD 750,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a breakthrough drug against tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) affects a third of the world's population. In 2013, an estimated nine million people developed TB, of whom 360,000 were HIV-positive, while the disease or complications from it proved fatal for another 1.5 million. Consequently, TB now ranks as the 8th cause of death in emerging countries. EPFL spin-off Innovative Medicines for Tuberculosis (iM4TB), is answering the challenge with a promising new drug. Moving onto early clinical trials, the work has been bolstered by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Founded in 2013, iM4TB is a not-for-profit foundation based in EPFL's innovation park, Lausanne, Switzerland, and supported by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme consortium More Medicines for Tuberculosis. iM4TB is chaired by Professor Stewart Cole, a world-renowned TB expert, who also directs EPFL's Global Health Institute.

iM4TB spearheads the development of a new antibiotic, PBTZ169, which kills drug-resistant TB bacteria and has the potential to shorten therapy. The drug works by destroying the bacterium's cell wall, which shields it against the immune system and antibiotics. In vivo studies have shown PBTZ169 to be effective and quicker than current drugs recommended by the World Health Organization.

The award from the Gates Foundation will help move PBTZ169 into human trials, which will likely be carried out initially in collaboration with the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) in Lausanne.

iM4TB also enjoys the support of HIV-discoverer and Nobel laureate Franćoise Barré-Sinoussi (Institut Pasteur), who has now become the Patron of iM4TB. "I am happy to support and encourage iM4TB's work on tuberculosis drug development," she states. "I applaud their aim to stop this disease that is a major threat to persons infected with HIV and kills three people every minute worldwide."


Professor Barry Furr, OBE

Lausanne, Switzerland, 5 March 2015

It was with great sadness that we learned that the Chair of our Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Professor Barry Furr, OBE., had passed away on Friday 27th February 2015.

Barry was instrumental in our establishing the first European consortium to work on TB drug discovery, NM4TB, as well as its successor, MM4TB. He consistently and generously shared his critical insight into the world of drug development and converted a group composed mainly of academics into a highly competitive virtual pharma company. As a direct result of Barry's vast experience, and his chairmanship of the scientific advisory board, both these consortia have been highly successful and made important contributions to the TB drug field.

To many of us he was not only a mentor, a guide and a constructive critic but a true friend, and he will be sadly missed by us all. We consider ourselves lucky to have known Barry and to have shared many pleasant moments with him around the world. We will treasure our memories of Barry and his many valuable contributions to TB, to AstraZeneca, to science, to British politics and to India.

We extend our sympathy to his wife Eileen (Marnie) and to his children, grandchildren and friends.

Barry Burry & grandchildren
Barry Furr and his grandchildren

Tributes to pioneering cancer scientist

By Karen Britton in the Macclesfield Express, 2 March 2015.

A scientist recognised around the world for his ground-breaking work on cancer drugs has died.

Barry Furr, 71, developed drugs to treat breast and prostate cancer in his role as chief scientist at pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. His drug Zoladex is vital to Macclesfield, as AstraZeneca at Hurdsfield - which employs 1,800 people - is the only site in the world capable of the complex processes needed to package the drug.

Barry, a grandfather of five, was chief scientist at AstraZeneca until he retired aged 62, but continued as a consultant for international companies and trustee for cancer charities until he died.

His wife Eileen, 67, who lived with Barry at Fence Avenue for 43 years, said he never lost his passion for science.

Eileen said: "Barry was a workaholic because he knew what he was doing was important.

"His research has helped so many people around the world and is so important for Macclesfield. He was working right up until he died. Although he was unwell, he never lost his love for science."

Barry died at home on Friday after suffering kidney failure which meant he had dialysis at home. Despite his illness, he arranged for the family to go to Florida last year for his 70th birthday.

He had a son Alex, and daughters Rhiannon and Abigail, who is a teacher at Broken Cross, married to Matthew Beaden, who lives next door on Fence Avenue.

Barry grew up in North London before studying chemistry, microbiology and physiological chemistry at Reading University.

He did a second degree in Physiological Chemistry and he met Eileen while studying for a PhD in Reproductive Endocrinology.

They moved to Macclesfield in 1972 when Barry got a job with ICI at Alderley Park, which later became AstraZeneca.

He was awarded an OBE in January 2000 for services to cancer drug discovery.

Eileen, a retired languages teacher, said: "He must be one of the few people in the world who answered 'breast and prostate Ma'am' when the Queen asked 'what kind of cancer did you work on?'. "With all the tributes coming in we realise how many lives he touched. Barry was straight-talking but very generous and had amazing integrity.

"He loved his family and I'll always remember him at the kitchen table doing the Guardian crossword.

"I'll miss his companionship and love. He said 'I love you' every single day and I'll miss him terribly, but words cannot express how proud we are."

Barry's funeral is at St Michael's Church on Thursday, March 12, 1pm followed by a committal at Macclesfield Crematorium for family. Family flowers only but there will be a collection for Breast Cancer Campaign and East Cheshire Hospice.

Sign the Barcelona Declaration

25 February 2015

Many thanks to Anneliese Dodds MEP for agreeing to sign the Barcelona Declaration and to Ben Farnes, her Constituency Assistant for his support.

Anneliese Dodds MEP
Anneliese Dodds MEP

If you are an elected politician, please also take the time to sign this important declaration:

We, the undersigned, as political representatives of various peoples of the world, recognising that every man, woman and child should be able to live their lives free from the tyranny of disease, HEREBY DECLARE:

1. That tuberculosis (TB) has killed a greater number of people than any other infectious disease in human history and continues to be responsible for 1.5 million deaths a year, often affecting the most vulnerable, and that it should be a global political priority.

2. That the current rate of progress in combatting TB is too slow, such that the disease will remain a threat to the social and economic wellbeing of millions of citizens around the world for centuries to come, and that accelerating progress against the disease should be recognised by all governments to be in the interests of all.

3. That drug-resistant TB demonstrates a collective failure to address the disease properly, imposing an often unbearable burden of treatment on patients and threatening to setback progress against the disease at the grave cost of millions of lives, and that it should be the focus for urgent action.

4. That the current drugs for TB treatment are inadequate, that vaccines and diagnostics are insufficient, and that the commercial market for pharmaceutical development has failed TB patients.

5. That TB imposes on patients a triple burden, combining the devastating health impact of the disease itself, the harsh burden of treatment, and the isolation of social exclusion driven by stigma and fear, and that these problems should be be addressed holistically by national health programmes.

6. That TB co-infections such as HIV and diabetes compound the challenges faced by patients during treatment, hindering efforts to reduce rates of diseaseand increasing the mortality and morbidity associated with TB, and that healthcare systems should integrate programmes for key co-infections.

We therefore commit to use all the means at our disposal to urge sustained action from our governments, to secure the necessary international and domesticresources to combat TB, and to press for the prioritisation of the disease on political agendas, specifically:

7. To demand that every patient, regardless of who they are, where they live, or their ability to pay, shall have access to quick, accurate diagnosis and high quality treatment, and that TB diagnosis and treatment never result in the impoverishment of patients or their families.

8. To call for a model of research and development that is driven by public health need and will support and enhance existing pipelines of desperately needed new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, to ensure that new treatments are accessible and affordable for the patients who need them.

9. To insist that patients and vulnerable groups are placed at the heart of the response to the disease, supporting the engagement of communities and civil society groups in every aspect of TB prevention, detection, and treatment, puncturing stigma and giving patients a stronger voice in the response to the epidemic.

And to this effect WE HEREBY AGREE to establish a new global parliamentary caucus to press for a more effective response to the TB epidemic, working with official organisations including the World Health Organisation, UNITAID, the Global Fund, the Stop TB Partnership, the Union and UNAIDS, and with non-governmental organisations across the world, reaching across political and geographical dividesand seeking to build commitment in our own countries and beyond, to secure an end to the TB epidemic within a generation.

The Caucus

The Global TB Caucus is an international network of parliamentarians who are committed to the fight against tuberculosis (TB).

Our vision is a world free from TB. We work in partnership to build the political will to achieve that vision

Sign the Declaration.

Nick Herbert MP
Nick Herbert MP, co-chairman of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis

Parliamentary questions: Tuberculosis in Europe

European Parliament, 12 December 2014

Question for written answer
to the Commission
Rule 130
Roberta Metsola (PPE)

Subject: Tuberculosis in Europe

There is currently an upsurge in tuberculosis (TB) and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) across Europe.

Can the Commission provide information on how it is dealing with this upsurge in TB and MDR-TB?

Original language of question: IT

European Parliament, 13 February 2015

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission

Surveillance data provided by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO)(1) indicate an average annual 5% decline in TB incidence across the WHO European Region over the last decade.

The Commission is aware that TB incidence varies significantly across Europe. This applies in particular to multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) where there is only a moderate decline in the EU/EEA and an increase in the wider Europe Region. The vast majority of TB cases occur in 18 countries(2), which account for 85% of total TB incidence in the wider Europe Region.

Further details are available in the joint ECDC-WHO Surveillance Report 'Tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring in Europe 2014'(3).

Upon request of the Commission, to help protect EU citizens against TB, the ECDC developed in 2008 a 'Framework Action Plan to fight TB in the EU'(4), and a monitoring framework 'Progressing towards TB elimination: A follow-up to the action plan to fight TB in the EU'(5). These two documents guide activities to prevent and control TB in the EU/EEA.

In addition the Commission is supporting actions to combat TB through the EU Health Programme, the EU Framework Programmes for Research, the Development Cooperation Instrument and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. The Commission further provides funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


(2) The 18 high-priority countries are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.




Tuberculosis - Science and Music

Pavia, Italy, 23 January 2015

Cinema Politeama, Corsa Cavor 20

Manon Act V (J. Massenet)
Act III Traviata (Verdi)
La Bohème Scene IV (Puccini)

Director: Mauro Pagano
Pianist: Angiolina Sensale
with the participation of the winners of the sixth edition of the International Opera Competition "A. Giacomotti"

Speakers: Prof. Giovanna Riccardi, Dr Marilina Pasca, Dr Giorgia Mori, Ms Marta Esposito, Dr Laurent Chiarelli..

Entrance: by donation.

Pavia TB  and Music
Tubercolosi La Scienza dialoga con la Musica, Pavia, Italy, January 2015

CDD Vault for medicinal chemistry decision support in large collaborations

USA, 21 January 2015

From the desk of CDD CSO Sean Ekins, M.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc.

Last week I attended the More Medicines for Tuberculosis (MM4TB) consortium meeting in Bilbao Spain. The MM4TB consortium consists of over twenty partners from thirteen countries in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. This event happens twice a year and represents an opportunity to bring the various groups together to discuss scientific progress. The meetings are also a chance to socialize with colleagues and share TB experiences and insights over two full days of work and leisurely lunches and dinners.

One aspect of the meeting stood out for me: Following a large phenotypic screen performed by Dr. Rita Szekely and Monica Rengifo at EPFL, there was a set of under one hundred hits that were identified and confirmed as low uM actives and not cytotoxic. The P.I. Dr. Stewart Cole suggested that all the chemists in the group go through the hits and flag any that might be problematic based on their experience. So at the end of the first day, chemists from England, Russia, Hungary, Switzerland and a few token biologists commented on the compounds as Rita projected them on the screen from her CDD Vault. I was in attendance as someone bridging the chemistry and biology. What was remarkable was how few compounds were "thrown away" by the chemists and how dynamic the discussion was. Each chemist declared their interest or not in particular scaffolds. It was also much easier to do this in person and using CDD Vault to select the compounds as a collection. The set of hits was also profiled through the PAINS filters after the meeting with the help of Dr. Alex Clark and these removed three compounds (quinones and rhodanine alerts) that were in agreement with the chemist's decisions. The compounds will now progress to target identification and screening in target based screens within the consortium.

It was terrific to see how CDD Vault platform aided this collaborative decision making in real time. This combination of the independent multi-chemist analysis aided by this collaborative platform and PAINS filters again highlighted the potential that relatively simple filters might have for non-chemists that use CDD Vault. While rules and filters cannot replace good medicinal chemists, they can point out potential compounds that may be problematic. While there are several external websites and mobile apps that calculate PAINS it might be a useful tool to incorporate into systems that house screening data and are used for decision making.

It will be exciting to see where this latest batch of hits end up, and I look forward to the next meeting in Paris in June.

Source: CDD

Bilbao © Sean Ekins, 2015

Stewart Cole elected to French National Academy of Pharmacy

Lausanne, Switzerland, 19 January 2015

Cole ANP
Source: © 2015 EPFL

Professor Stewart Cole has been formally elected into the National Academy of Pharmacy in France as an Associate Member. Created August 3, 1803, the French National Academy of Pharmacy began life as the "Paris Pharmacy Company", which was officially recognized as a charity in 1877. The organization grew into the "Academy of Pharmacy" on September 5, 1946, and took its final form on 9 October 1979.

The main aims of the French National Academy of Pharmacy are "to comprehend and examine all scientific, technical, legal, historical and ethical matters where can practice the skills of pharmacists, particularly those related to drug and other health products, biology, public health, including health and environmental issues".

There are only ever thirty Associate Members, and the Academy has selected Professor Cole for his work on antibacterials and tuberculosis, which includes groundbreaking publications on the genomics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae. His current work focuses on the development and clinical testing of novel antibiotics against M. tuberculosis, which currently accounts for 1.5 million deaths each year (source: WHO).

The election ceremony of Professor Cole took place on December 17, 2014.

Cole Foucher
Prof. Stewart Cole and Prof. Jean-Pierre Foucher, President of the ANP

Ninth MM4TB Consortium Meeting

Bilbao, Spain, 8 - 9 January 2015

The ninth Consortium Meeting (CM9) was hosted by Prof. Marcelo Guerin at the Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao in Bilbao on 8 - 9 January 2015.

There were 61 registered participants. All beneficiaries were represented by at least one person with the exception of Cellworks and Alere.

Prof. Barry Furr OBE, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board was unable to attend in order to assess progress and was deputized by Prof. Chris Abell of Cambridge University.

The prizes for best presentations by young researchers were won by Marta Esposito (UNIPV), Mohamad Sabbah (UCAM) and Riza Szekély (EPFL).

MM4TB researchers at Bilbao, Spain, January 2015