Mapping of TB genome

Written by fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 15 2010, 02:30am hrs
In what could finally result in a new and better drug for TB, Indian scientists have successfully completed the mapping of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome. They accomplished this feat by pooling in the open source drug discovery model, introduced by the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) in September 2008.

This could expedite the discovery of a new drug, research on which pharma MNCs companies have virtually given up. The TB bacterium has over the years developed resistance to the multi-drug regimen, currently being used worldwide to eliminate it.

Around 1.7 million people die from TB every year globally, one-fifth of them in India, according to the WHO. There has not been any new drug discovery in this therapeutic segment for last the five decades. CSIR is hopeful that it may just roll out a molecule ready for clinical trials in just next two years. This also marks crossing of the first significant milestone for the open source drug discovery model.

Our scientists along with over 100 students from several universities have managed to get this far, all of it just within a few months. We are doing this through the open source drug discovery and anyone across the world is most welcome to join the effort, said Samir Bramhachari, Director General, CSIR and mastermind of the OSDD project.

The concept of open pool research envisages public documentation of data designed on the lines of Wikipedia in which the concerned gene map can be modified and updated as new information keeps emerging on any of the genome features. The research work would be kept in form of a shared database online, which the venture will share through a globally accessible database with any research institutions involved in TB research, through its open portal.

"As virtually no new TB drugs have been developed since the 1960s, the OSDD's model in particular holds great promise for the scientific community by stimulating the development of better drugs and diagnostics for patients," Bramhachari added.

"Our main aim is to bring out a drug that will shorten TB therapy," said Zakir Thomas, project director, OSDD. In a way the occasion also gave an answer to all those sceptics in the industry who were apprehensive of the success of such an open research model when it was launched in September 2008. Experts and industry were apprehensive that though the project was well intentioned it could go the same way as many public ventures do, as industry may not want to share classified data in such a no-profit model in the absence of tangible incentives. Also, the skewed research in pharma industry has resulted in very minimal research for diseases like TB in which expected returns are very low.