IDRI receives $15 million commitment from Eli Lilly for TB drug discovery
IDRI's drug discovery efforts continue to grow with a recently awarded $7.5 million in additional funding, plus an additional $7.5 million of in-kind services, for a total commitment of $15 million over the next five years from Eli Lilly and Company. The funding and in-kind services, which include Lilly scientists' time and engagement on projects as well as Lilly research and development resources and capabilities, will extend the work of the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative. This marks the continuation of a long-standing partnership between IDRI and Eli Lilly, which started more than eight years ago with the founding of the Lilly Initiative, a unique public-private partnership that includes IDRI, Lilly and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with a focus on the discovery of new anti-tuberculosis drugs.
One of the world's deadliest diseases, tuberculosis kills almost 1.5 million each year and is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected. About one-third of the world's population is infected with the bacterium that causes TB, creating a potential reservoir of disease. There is an increasing threat from multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant strains, demonstrating the need to develop more effective, cheaper and faster-acting drugs – the prime focus of IDRI's TB Discovery Program, led by Tanya Parish Ph.D., Vice President of Drug Discovery.
The new funding from Lilly extends the work that has occurred over the past eight years, with a focus on moving new chemical entities into lead optimization with the intent to have at least one preclinical drug candidate. "Being part of the Lilly Initiative has helped us move through the phases of the traditional drug development 'funnel,' from hit evaluation to formal hit assessment, then hits to leads followed by lead optimization," said Parish.
The Lilly Initiative's initial funding helped set up the foundation of IDRI's Discovery Program – personnel, equipment and specialized lab facilities – followed by the screening of compounds provided by Lilly, which was unique at the time. "The partnership marked one of the first times a large pharmaceutical company opened its compound library to an outside entity," said Parish. "We began screening those compounds to find out if there was potential for TB drugs; to date, we've screened more than 500,000 compounds."
From there, Parish's group moved into evaluation and the TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA) was started, which led to additional screening. The TBDA is a partnership of eight pharmaceutical companies, including Lilly, and four other institutions funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that targets the discovery of new TB drugs by collaborating on early-stage drug discovery for tuberculosis. According to Parish, the Lilly initiative and the TBDA are important, productive and complementary programs that move TB drug discovery forward.
"This partnership with Lilly has expanded over the years," said Parish. "Not only do they provide financial and scientific resources, but people as well. We work together as one team with common goals, using our individual areas of expertise; for Lilly that's proven success in the field of drug discovery and for IDRI it is in-depth knowledge of tuberculosis."
Philip Hipskind, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Fellow and leader of the Lilly initiative, added, "Together with IDRI, the NIAID, and our other partners, we've made remarkable progress over the last eight years towards new therapies for tuberculosis, and we are delighted to extend our collaboration for five more years."
As a non-profit global health organization, IDRI (Infectious Disease Research Institute) takes a comprehensive approach to combat infectious diseases, combining the high-quality science of a research organization with the product development capabilities of a biotech company to create new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines. IDRI combines passion for improving human health with the understanding that it is not just what our scientists know about disease, but what we do to change its course that will have the greatest impact. Founded in 1993, IDRI has 125 employees headquartered in Seattle with nearly 100 partners/collaborators around the world. For more information, visit http://www.idri.org.