LSHTM launches new centre of innovation to tackle antimicrobial resistance and tuberculosis

Inaugural Johnson & Johnson Center for Global Health Discovery aims to help build the next-generation treatments for TB

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s (LSHTM) research into tackling antimicrobial resistance and tuberculosis has been boosted through a new partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

LSHTM will host the inaugural J&J Center for Global Health Discovery (J&J CGHD). It marks the start of a new network of unique research partnerships between Johnson & Johnson and leading academic institutions to accelerate research into major global health challenges.

The J&J CGHD will advance the critical, early-stage discovery and exploratory science needed to develop potentially lifesaving innovations to address diseases that disproportionately impact the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

TB is an infectious disease that kills 1.4 million people each year and accounts for nearly one-third of all deaths from AMR. The J&J Satellite Center for Global Health Discovery at LSHTM will focus specifically on developing cutting-edge science, from biology to data sciences, to help build the next-generation drug regimens needed to treat all forms of TB. Accelerating this research is critical to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending TB by 2030.

Research at the centre is already under way and led by Dr Anil Koul who recently joined LSHTM as its Professor of Translational Research at LSHTM. Dr Koul is also Vice-President and head for Global Public Health Discovery and Partnerships at Johnson & Johnson. He is recognised for his contribution to the discovery and development of Bedaquiline – a novel drug for the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, the first drug to break the 45-year deadlock in the search for a new tuberculosis medicine.

Dr Koul said: “It’s time to do things differently in global public health research if we are to finally eradicate deadly diseases such as TB, and that’s where these new centres come in. By bringing together the excellent science of institutions like LSHTM with Johnson and Johnson’s expertise in translational research, I believe we can not only bridge but fill the gaps in innovation needed to tackle the world’s urgent health issues.”

The collaboration builds on Johnson & Johnson’s decades-long research on multidrug-resistant TB and its strong relationship with LSHTM, which includes the development of the Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine regimen.

Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has powerfully demonstrated the importance of investing in basic science and discovery. We have long worked with Johnson & Johnson to tackle significant global health challenges, like tuberculosis and Ebola, and are eager to build on this work in pursuit of a healthier, safer and more equitable world.”

While the past decade has seen a consistent decline in global funding for basic science, including discovery and pre-clinical development for neglected diseases, there are clear steps that can be taken to turn this tide. A 2018 analysis found that many innovations and technologies needed to fight some of the world’s most prevalent health threats are not likely to be developed, due in part to significant funding and innovation gaps. The J&J SDCs aim to stimulate the R&D pipeline at discovery to focus funding on early-stage science, innovation and talent development.

The J&J CGHD help address the dual innovation and health equity gap by creating a larger and decentralised scientific network that empowers scientists worldwide to drive R&D in the communities where the need is greatest. By joining forces with other institutions and leveraging their regional networks, the Satellite Centers will help mentor talent and advance the science needed as efficiently as possible. Additional Satellite Centers are expected to come online worldwide through 2022.

Paul Stoffels, Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer of Johnson & Johnson, said: “COVID-19 has shown us that investments in early-stage research, such as novel vaccine technologies, are critical to accelerate our fight against pandemic threats. The Johnson & Johnson Centers for Global Health Discovery are the latest chapter in our efforts to turn science into solutions for diseases that continue to threaten communities worldwide. This collaborative approach to science is essential to accelerate innovations from the lab to the last mile, address the global health inequities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve our health security.”

Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Global Head of Global Public Health R&D at Johnson & Johnson, said: “The launch of the J&J Centers for Discovery Global Health is the latest step forward in our pursuit of collaborative science to deliver for the most underserved worldwide, and there is no better inaugural partner than LSHTM.

“The thriving innovation community in the United Kingdom matched with LSHTM’s legacy of global health research makes for an ideal environment to accelerate our research agenda against entrenched and emerging threats.”

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