Medical researchers are upbeat over a new tuberculosis drug being developed in New Zealand.

Scientists at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) and Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery are working on a compound called TBA-354, which they have high hopes of advancing for clinical trials in the US in the near future.

The drug is the newest hope in the fight against tuberculosis, and could provide the first major breakthrough in fighting the disease in the last 50 years.

Experts in Auckland have worked in partnership with the TB Alliance and the University of Illinois at Chicago to help with the research.


TBA-354 is thought to be better than counterpart PA-824, which has already shown promise in clinical trials.

Brian Palmer, associate professor of the ACSRC and Maurice Wilkins Centre said: "This is the first new class of drugs to be developed for TB in nearly 50 years, and the first designed to work against the persistent form of the disease.

"Clinical results reported earlier this year suggest that PA-824, in combination with an existing TB drug, could treat some drug-resistant forms of TB in just four months in contrast to the 18 to 24 months required for current regimens.

"TBA-354, the follow-on compound, may prove to be even more effective.

The TB Alliance expects to complete preclinical studies of TBA-354 by early next year, and will then seek permission from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin trials in humans.

Professor Rod Dunbar, director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, added: "New Zealand has an outstanding reputation in drug discovery and it's exciting to see the ACSRC's expertise in cancer drug development being used in the fight against one of the most devastating infectious diseases in the world."

TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest infectious killer worldwide. Most cases and deaths from it occur in low and middle-income countries, and it is a major health concern in the Asia-Pacific region.