Shasun, a drug-maker based in Chennai, southern India, has emerged one of the 14 firms brought together by the international drug giant Eli Lilly to fight the drug-resistant TB.
Shasun makes an active ingredient in cycloserine, one of the few treatments available worldwide to treat drug-resistant TB.
"Multiple Drug Resistant (MDR) TB and Extreme Drug Resistance (CDR) TB can't be diagnosed rapidly, so it spreads rapidly - in a worst case scenario, drug resistant TB will completely replace drug susceptible strains. Today only four per cent of the strains are drug-resistant, but the situation could change dramatically, unless timely steps are taken," warned Dr.Mario Ravigilone, Director, WHO's Stop TB campaign.
Eli Lilly has put together a four-way partnership Shasun and China's Haisun Pharmaceuticals.
The cycloserine manufactured through such a collaboration would be sold to the WHO at a third of the market for distribution in the most affected regions
. Mike Okopski of Eli Lilly, the moving spirit behind the venture, said that technology, formulae, trademarks for cyloserine and capreomycin were transferred over four years by his firm following an appeal by the healthcare NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the WHO.
Apart from Lilly's Partnership, three other global alliances are also pitching in to use the collective resources of the government, the industry and the academic world to create a pipeline of seven new drugs and three new vaccines.
"Public-private partnerships have caught on to solve the financial aspects, where the uncertainty of the science created a barrier for industry," noted Dr.Georgio Rosigno, CEO of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND).
But the funding problem still looms large, for the existing regimens are cumbersome and protracted while the TB organism explodes in various forms, leaving researchers panting. "We are back in the pre-antibiotics era. We need new drugs, new diagnostics, new vaccines. We have only half of the budget we need, far from the $ 2 billion needed to roll out our Stop TB campaign," Dr.Raviglione somberly.