Year/Course: 2005-2006, Lent 2006

Contacts: Professor John Archer, Genetics

Tuberculosis is widespread as a disease of developing countries and poor people within developed countries, killing at least 2 million people per year, with 8.8 million new cases in 2002. The main treatments for TB involve a complex 6-9 month course of up to five antibiotics, which were developed from 1947 to 1966.

The Archer lab in Cambridge has been working on a new approach to identifying drug candidates for TB, which is generating excellent results, and is proving more efficient than traditional approaches to finding new drugs. Funding so far has been received from a variety of sources, including CMI, and future funding is expected from The Wellcome Trust and later from the Gates Foundation.

A close partnership has been formed with several companies in India to allow the identification and manufacture of specific drug leads to take through into medical trials. However, the global market for a cure for TB is estimated to be $300-500 million per year, which is too small to be viable for the large pharmaceutical manufacturers. The question is how to take such a cure to market, once it has been identified and tested. Possible options include creating a new spin-out company to manage the clinical trials and eventual manufacture and distribution of a cure, or simply licensing the cure to one of the Indian partner companies.

The i-team will need to liaise with the Indian partner companies and study the pharmaceutical industry to understand the costs involved in bringing a cure to market, and in manufacturing and distributing it on an ongoing basis, to assess if a viable stand-alone business can be created for this product. In addition, they will need to assess the current market for TB, including possible competitors, market size, and current costs of TB treatment.