Bill & Melinda Gates Institute licenses 2 of Merck's TB antibiotic candidates

Tuberculosis has become increasingly difficult to treat as antibiotic resistance rises and the pipeline of antibiotics in development thins out. Now, Merck & Co. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute are teaming up to tackle the challenge, inking a global licensing deal for two preclinical tuberculosis (TB) antibiotics with hopes of combating resistance and cutting treatment times.

Patients who have drug-resistant forms of TB,  an infectious disease responsible for 1.5 million deaths each year, may have to endure longer and more complicated treatment, often with side effects. In efforts to create a shorter drug regimen against both drug-susceptible and drug-resistant TB forms, the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute has snapped up the exclusive global license to two of Merck's preclinical antibacterial candidates.

The non-profit plans to assess the candidates, dubbed MK-7762 and MK-3854, to see if they could be used in new, affordable combo treatments for TB. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

The preclinical candidates were discovered by Merck scientists as part of the TB Drug Accelerator, a collaboration between eight Big Pharmas and numerous research organizations and universities to rapidly discover and develop new therapeutic candidates for the infectious disease.  

In vitro and in vivo assessments of MK-7762 and MK-3854 demonstrated potent antibacterial activity against the organism that causes TB, including some strains that are resistant to current treatments, according to an Oct. 18 release.