23 July 2010
By Prashanth G N
It couldn’t have been better timed. Just as CSIR scientists are working on a tuberculosis (TB) drug that could cut treatment time by eight months, Bangalorebased biotech research and development firm Jubilant Biosys has developed and presented to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) a drug molecule scientists say could help win the battle against TB in India.
“The drug molecule presented by Jubilant Biosys shows strong activity against TB. It has the potential to be turned into the drug itself. We have been on the lookout for molecules with such properties,” a top CSIR scientist told TOI.
Scientists are presently working to develop it as a lead molecule, an important step in its development as a drug.“In scientific parlance, the molecule is in the ‘early hit’ stage. We want to take it to the ‘lead optimisation’ stage or turn it into a lead molecule in the development of the anti–TB drug. Getting good leads out of an early hit molecule enhances possibilities for drug development,” the scientist said.
A major task being undertaken on the drug molecule is its cleaning.“We need to ensure the molecule has no toxicity whatsoever. We are in the process of cleaning it up,” the scientist said. This is done to ensure there are no side–effects of any kind, including toxic, when the drug is ready for production. A team of researchers is also on the job to locate at least four to five more similar ‘good molecules’ so that the best one could be selected for drug development. While CSIR scientists would be carrying out other related research, in case a selected molecule meets all relevant criteria, CSIR will change course, reduce its own time on research and get set to develop the drug.
Developing molecules takes time. However, if bio–tech research institutions and firms come up with the good molecules, enormous research time and effort is saved and the properties of the ‘good molecule’ can be directly harnessed to produce the anti–TB drug. The molecule by Jubilant Biosys is being seen as just the right candidate in drug development and is expected to cut time taken to develop new molecules.
TB FACTS AS PER WHO
- TB kills three Indians every 2 minutes
- Nearly 2 billion people are infected, ie, 1 in 3 of global population
- 1.7 million people died from TB in 2006; this is equal to 4,500 deaths a day
- TB is the leading cause of death from bacterial infection
- It is spread from person to person, and is a particular threat for nosocomial transmission, with a potentially lethal impact on healthcare workers