TB Alliance will use the $5.1 million award over the next three years to identify and test potential treatments for infections caused by Mycobacterium abscessus (M. abscessus) and Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), two types of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). NTM infections are difficult to treat, requiring antibiotics for a year or longer with no guarantee of a cure and with a risk of serious side effects. M. abscessus and MAC caused the vast majority of NTM infections in people with cystic fibrosis in 2017, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry.
The group of bacteria that make up the different types of NTM, including M. abscessus and MAC, are related to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). Because of those similarities, TB Alliance is ideally suited to focus on NTM, having successfully identified novel medicines for TB that are now being evaluated in patients.
During the anti-TB drug discovery process, TB Alliance identified three chemical classes with compounds that show potential for treating M. abscessus and MAC. Through the Foundation's support, TB Alliance will work with each set of compounds to identify which are the most effective against these bacteria with the goal of producing a new treatment, or treatments, that are better than available medicines.
One of the challenges with developing new treatments for NTM is the lack of preclinical animal models that replicate various aspects of CF, which would enable researchers to more accurately predict the effect of new medicines before they are tested on people. As part of this project, TB Alliance, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, will work to develop a preclinical model for chronic NTM infections to help identify which regimens -- or combinations of drugs -- are likely to be most effective in people. Johns Hopkins University previously developed a predictive model for TB that has been instrumental in evaluating new TB drug regimens.
The CF Foundation supports research to improve diagnosis and existing treatments for NTM as well as to evaluate new therapies that target the bacteria. Two new studies -- PREDICT and PATIENCE -- aim to create standard ways to diagnose and treat NTM infections.
The Foundation is actively pursuing and funding a broad portfolio of new treatments for complications of cystic fibrosis, especially chronic and intractable infections. In November 2018, the Foundation launched the Infection Research Initiative, a comprehensive approach to improve outcomes associated with infections through enhanced detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.