Tuberculosis portal

Collaborative Drug Discovery receives Gates Foundation grant to develop TB drug discovery database

Amy Swinderman
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BURLINGAME, Calif.—Collaborative Drug Discovery Inc. (CDD), a provider of Web-based, preclinical research software, announced in November it received a grant worth nearly $1.9 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a database that will enable scientists to archive, mine and selectively collaborate around their research data to discover new cures for tuberculosis (TB).

The Web-based database, which CDD will develop over the next two years, will integrate the efforts of academic, non-profit and corporate laboratories from around the globe, with the goal of accelerating the discovery of new therapies against TB that are less expensive and easier to administer.

CDD has already begun compiling previously published TB research for the database. The project will then integrate the efforts of eight academic groups focused on TB research and later expand to include other participants. Ultimately, the database will be accessible to the public.

Ken Duncan, senior program officer at the Gates Foundation, said in a statement that the grant promotes the organization's goal of "developing more effective medicines for those in developing countries who need them most."

"CDD's technology will help the entire TB research community to collaborate more easily," Duncan said in the statement. "We hope it will speed the scientific breakthroughs urgently needed to make effective therapies more accessible to the world's poorest people, and confront the challenges of multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant TB strains."

Dr. Sean Ekins, CDD's director of collaborations for the project, says the Web-based database will bring together disjointed drug discovery efforts so that dispersed labs can form efficient virtual pharmaceutical organizations.

"The question is, how can some academics share modules with someone who wants to do testing, and how can we connect those two groups of people together without the tried-and-tested way of looking for each other on Google, PubMed or a conference," Ekins says. "The collaboration angle goes after industry and academia, and connects scientists that ordinarily wouldn't or couldn't get together because of geographic or informatics differences. We want to encourage collaboration, push along the discovery of new hits and advance leads."

There are several TB databases approaching the disease from different angles, but CDD's database will focus a small molecule approach, Ekins notes.

"What is discouraging is that there are more Web sites devoted to famous people who had TB or died of TB than databases devoted to it," Ekins says. "Our ultimate goal is to advance a couple of new, key TB drug candidates. That is a lofty goal, but we're hoping to pull it off within two years."

The project is also in line with CDD's focus on supporting humanitarian as well as commercial drug discovery, Ekins says. The company also recently partnered with the Myelin Repair Foundation (MRF) to organize data from the MRF's collaboration with other academic research groups.

"There hasn't been a real effort to come up with an informatics source, so this is a very important opportunity for us," Ekins says. "We're hoping to convince biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies that our technology is the future. If we can do this successfully with TB, we can do it for another neglected disease area like malaria, Parkinson's or cancer." DDN

Amy Swinderman

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