The Catalysis Foundation for Health in Emeryville, California, has announced a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of its efforts to discover new tuberculosis biomarkers that can improve diagnostic tests and treatments.
To date, TB prevention and treatment efforts have been hindered by an inability to measure the efficacy of different therapies. Current methods, based on sputum cultures, are difficult to perform and generate imprecise clinical endpoints, contributing to the length and cost of clinical trials.
The grant will enable Catalysis to focus its research efforts on collecting and analyzing a comprehensive set of samples from TB patients in several countries. Scientists will use the samples to identify and apply biomarkers for use in next-generation "bacterial load" diagnostic assays, which are analogous to HIV viral load assays used in managing AIDS patients. The load assays, which measure the amount of bacteria in the body, could also lead to developing effective TB drugs by providing a better indication of a patient's response to treatment.
"The Catalysis Foundation's initiative is an important opportunity to address a critical need in tuberculosis drug development and disease management by developing quantitative measures of bacterial burden," said Clifton E. Barry, chief of the tuberculosis research section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a collaborator on the new study. "Our goal is to provide new diagnostic tools to facilitate disease diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment in remote geographic settings to help patients lead healthier lives, free of the deadly disease caused by TB infection."