Much negative criticism has been directed at the pharmaceutical industry’s perceived lack of innovation in recent years, but one area that has received a lot of attention is neglected diseases. One of the latest developments that I’ve read about is an EU-funded project led by GlaxoSmithKline to develop new treatments for multiple drug resistant tuberculosis (TB).
The Open Collaborative Model for Tuberculosis Lead Optimisation (ORCHID) project is focused on lead optimisation and the preclinical development of potential TB treatments. In particular, the researchers will be looking at three main areas:
- New InhA inhibitors — the project has identified a chemical series that can inhibit a recognised TB target. Tool compounds in the same series may also have potential against multidrug resistant strains of the disease.
- B-lactams — research has suggested that a novel approach could make the broad-spectrum antibiotics effective against TB.
- Whole-cell hits — compounds that were active against TB in high-throughput screening, but whose mode of action is unknown.
A preclinical package is said to be already in place for some of the above, but further work is necessary for others to justify progression to preclinical and clinical development.
ORCHID began in 2011, but earlier this week a press statement was released to say that Nanologica, a Swedish company with expertise in nanomaterials, had joined the project. Nanologica’s first goal will be to examine formulation problems associated with the poor water solubility of certain compounds.
“Our role is to provide formulation and drug delivery solutions to the poor solubility typical of potent anti-tubercular drug compounds, using our porous silica particles, which have been proven to enhance the pharmacokinetic properties of APIs, in particular the bioavailability of poorly soluble compounds,” Dr. Alfonso Garcia-Bennett, Head of R&D at Nanologica, told me in an email.
ORCHID has received funding of more than 5 million Euros from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Further funds will be provided by project partners, bringing the project up to 10 million Euros.
Big Pharma names are often the first to come to mind when people think of new treatments, but it’s important not to underestimate the benefits that more niche players can bring to R&D. Garcia-Bennett was very excited when speaking about the project because of the benefits it could have for Nanologica. “The project marks a milestone in the development of our functional excipient line of porous materials. It enables us to validate our particles in a commercial context; from both regulatory and clinical perspectives, together with the best from the pharmaceutical industry and with partners committed to the goals of the project,” he said.
The ORCHID project will also be calling on the expertise of several academic institutions, including universities in the UK, Slovenia and France.