Eli Lilly is putting more than US$4 million in additional funds into the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), the US-based not-for-profit that is a partner in the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative.

The new funding of US$4.2 million will enable IDRI to continue its early-phase drug discovery efforts focused on identifying new and better therapies in the fight against tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant strains (MDR-TB), through to 2016, Lilly said.

The company will also provide IDRI with more than US$1 million in kind in the form of volunteer time from Lilly scientists and access to the company’s drug discovery expertise, chemical libraries and research tools.

The additional commitments bring to more than US$20 million Lilly’s total support for early-stage TB drug discovery efforts through IDRI. In all, the company has put over US$170 million into R&D efforts against TB and MDR-TB, it notes.

Desperately needed

“Today’s TB drugs are decades old and must be taken for extended periods of time, which present challenges for patients and health care providers,” commented John Lechleiter, Eli Lilly’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “More effective medicines with fewer side-effects are desperately needed.”

The Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative was launched in 2007 to accelerate early-stage drug discovery for tuberculosis by bringing together specialists from around the world to explore systematically private molecular libraries in search of new TB treatments.

Located within IDRI's base in Seattle, the Initiative involves representatives of government agencies, philanthropic organisations, pharmaceutical companies, universities and other research institutions.

Seed funding

Lilly initially provided US$15 million to launch and support the effort for a five-year period, including US$9 million in kind (e.g., high-throughput screening, chemistry laboratories, research tools, scientific and technical expertise) plus $6 million in cash to seed the organisation.

The company also provided access to a compound library that has now expanded to more than 800,000 compounds in total.

Screening molecules for potential activity against MDR-TB, a form of tuberculosis resistant to at least two first-line TB medicines, as part of the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative is one strand of the consolidated Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform announced by Lilly in September.