Johnson & Johnson (J&J) scientists are partnering with researchers at India’s Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), to discover and develop new treatments for tuberculosis (TB).

The two organizations have inked a Memorandum of Understanding, under which J&J’s global public health team scientists will work with the CSIR-IMTECH in Chandigarh, India, to develop new drug compounds against TB and to devise safer, more effective oral treatment regimens against multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

“TB remains a significant challenge in India, killing approximately half a million people in 2015 alone,” said Anil Koul, Ph.D., director, CSIR-IMTECH. “The partnership we have announced today with Johnson & Johnson has the potential to accelerate our work in support of India's National Strategic Plan, our accelerated action plan to end TB by 2025, and most importantly to save lives.”

The partnership will combine CSIR-IMTECH’s expertise in microbial technology and research with drug development expertise of J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical companies to build on nearly 20 years of TB research by J&J. The collaboration will, in addition, add to existing partnerships at the central and state levels in India to improve TB awareness, diagnosis, and care and to broaden access to J&J’s TB medicine bedaquiline.

In March 2016, Janssen India and the Revised National Tuberculosis Control program (under the aegis of the Director General of Health Services) launched a conditional access program (CAP) to provide bedaquiline free-of-charge to 600 patients across six sites in India. The CAP was expanded in April this year to TB patients across 156 sites. Janssen India is in addition working with regional authorities to improve awareness of TB and improve access to diagnosis, treatment, and care.

“Johnson & Johnson companies have been serving the healthcare needs of India for 70 years now; this partnership forms an important part of our commitment to the government's 'Make in India' program, supporting Indian drug development for a disease that affects more than 2.8 million people in our country,” added Sanjiv Navangul, managing director, Janssen India.

Bedaquiline (Sirturo®) is a diarylquinoline antimycobacterial drug that was granted accelerated approval by the FDA in December 2012 for treating pulmonary MDR-TB as part of combination therapy in adults, when adequate alternative therapy cannot be provided. Approval was tethered to boxed warnings that the drug increases the risk of death and heart QT prolongation. Bedaquiline was subsequently approved by the Indian regulatory authority in 2015, again for conditional use as part of combination therapy for pulmonary MDR-TB in adult patients for whom an alternative treatment option cannot be identified.

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