Pharmacy researchers help develop new tuberculosis drug

Scott Franzblau

Scott Franzblau, professor and director of the Institute for Tuberculosis Research, leads a team that tested more than 2,000 compounds to find potential drugs against TB. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

The first new tuberculosis drug candidate since 2009 is entering Phase 1 clinical trials with the help of College of Pharmacy researchers.

Scott Franzblau, professor and director of the Institute for Tuberculosis Research, leads a team that has evaluated more than 2,000 compounds from the antibiotic family of nitroimidazoles to learn whether they can kill both replicating and dormant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The best 100 prospects were then evaluated in TB-infected mice.

For the past three years, UIC has collaborated with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and Auckland University in New Zealand, where the nitroimidazoles were synthesized.

The drug, TBA-354, is a second-generation nitroimidazole, effective against drug-sensitive and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Based on preclinical studies, TBA-354 is expected to have a combination of safety and efficacy that surpasses two other drugs — Delamanid, developed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical and approved for use in drug-resistant TB in several European and Asian countries, and Pretomanid, being tested as a component of other regimens in multiple clinical trials.

The collaboration resulted in the publication of six papers published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, one in Organic Biomolecular Chemistry and one in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million people die each year from TB and more than 9 million were diagnosed with the disease. TB is spread by germs through the air from person to person. It usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys or the spine. If left untreated, the disease can kill.