ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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No Time to Wait

A pioneering open source effort on development of new drugs promises to breathe new life into treatment of TB.

Tuberculosis claims two lives every three minutes in India and every year 1.8 million Indians develop the disease. It mostly afflicts the poorest in the most productive years of their lives and its socio-economic burden is worse than the disease burden. Worldwide, it claims 1.7 million lives every year and when combined with HIV, the trail of devastation it leaves behind is almost incalculable. Added to this, several drugresistant strains have shown up making it impossible to treat patients with the available drugs. Yet, TB is among the “neglected diseases” of the world, receiving dismal research funding that directly affects production of new drugs. In this context, the result of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) initiative to re-annotate the biological and genetic information relating to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) genome has great importance.

For the first time a comprehensive mapping of the Mtb genome has been compiled, verified and made publicly available. The Mtb map with information on the nearly 4,000 genes that determine how the bacterium lives and infects human beings is in a shared database hosted online that any institute doing research in TB can access and use. As the CSIR which launched the OSDD in 2008 pointed out, this was a unique online connection of scientists, doctors, students (nearly 300 of them), policy experts and software professionals across 74 countries to focus on TB research. It is an example of collaborative rather than hierarchical scientific work and a majority of the volunteers did not charge for their services. All information available on every one of the Mtb’s genes is being systematically arranged and made accessible in an easy-to-search format on the web so that researchers keen on finding better drug targets, which can be made quickly and cheaply, will be able to do so.

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