News Feature | April 7, 2014

India's Open Source Drug Discovery Program Faces Lack Of Funding

By Marcus Johnson

India's Open Source Drug Discovery Program, or OSDD, ran out of funding last week, as the ministry of science and technology did not clear the cabinet note to extend the project's funding on time. OSDD was created in 2008 in an effort to develop new drugs to treat neglected diseases, including Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Leishmaniasis.

In particular, OSDD has been working to develop a new combination of drugs for the treatment of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (DR TB), which experts believe kills 1,000 people in India every day. According to the Times of India, no new drugs for the treatment of TB have been developed since the 1960s. The OSDD has been hard at work developing a new drug combination that could cut down on the number of treatments DR TB patients have to take. Currently, patients have to take six drugs. However, the new drug combination could reduce that number of drugs to three and reduce the period of treatment from two years to 4-6 months.

According to OSDD officials, these delays in funding are worrisome, especially for experimental work, but they will not stop the organization’s project. Professor Samir Kumar Brahmachari, the chief mentor at OSDD, says, “There is a lot of anxiety among young scientists who are extremely demoralized about the fund crunch. We might lose many good professionals involved in the project. But the science part is not affected yet as I reassure them all the time and the Tata Trust gave us Rs 33 crore. So the project won't stop. But for the experimental work, we will need more money,” said Brahmachari.

Leena Menghaney of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) claims that OSDD is desperately needed by patients suffering from drug resistant TB in the country. “OSDD is channeling India's expertise and funding into critically needed R&D for drug-resistant TB. India has a complex DR TB epidemic and has the second highest burden in the world. It is critical that CSIR take action to save the project. It is in the process of setting up a platform for DR TB drug trials, which will allow India to participate in developing new drug regimens for DR TB. In the absence of such a platform, India is already being left out of the most critical R&D work on TB,” said Menghaney.