Tuberculosis: New drug substance BTZ-043 is being tested on patients for the first time

BTZ-043 was discovered at the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz-HKI) in Jena. Since 2014, the new chemical entity has been developed in a consortium of scientists from the Leibniz-HKI and the Tropical Institute at the Hospital of the LMU Munich within the framework of the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). The study is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

Tuberculosis is the most common cause of death worldwide caused by bacterial infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis every year, particularly in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Western Pacific region. An enormous challenge in the treatment of tuberculosis is the increased incidence of resistant pathogens against which only a few antibiotics are still effective. The WHO is, therefore, placing great hopes in the development of drugs based on new chemical entities. BTZ-043, a benzothiazinone, is such a new drug candidate.

With the start of the study in Cape Town, the international research team has reached a decisive point: A Phase I study conducted in Germany showed good tolerability of BTZ-043. If BTZ-043 proves to be safe and effective in the current study (Phase II), this would be a major step in the development of a new drug. In the near future, this could replace one of the less effective drug compounds used in either standard or drug resistant therapy and contribute to a safer and/or shorter treatment of tuberculosis.

In the study, the BTZ-043 will be administered in two clinical centers in Cape Town to a total of 80 tuberculosis patients over a period of 14 days. The first step is to find an optimal dose for the drug candidate by achieving the best balance between efficacy and tolerability. In the second step, these results will be confirmed in many more patients and both the efficacy and the tolerability will be compared with the current standard treatment for tuberculosis. All participating patients will be referred to a local health center 14 days after completion of their study. There, their treatment will be continued according to the national guidelines.

In mid-November 2019, the first patients for treatment with BTZ-043 were included in the study. First results on tolerability and efficacy are expected by the middle of next year. After visiting the study site in Cape Town, Professor Michael Hoelscher from the Tropical Institute at the LMU Hospital expressed his optimism: „Following the promising results of the Phase I study in Germany, we see a great chance that the good tolerability of BTZ-043 will be confirmed in the treatment of tuberculosis patients. We are confident that we will also see good results in the first efficacy data.“ Project Manager Dr. Julia Dreisbach from the Tropical Institute confirms: „In order to ensure patient safety, we are working together with our long-standing partners in South Africa and the most experienced study teams worldwide around Professors Andreas Diacon and Rodney Dawson.”

The development of new drugs, which are primarily intended for developing countries, is largely financed from public funds. Of note is that the first antibiotic developed in Germany in decades was achieved through cooperation between academic institutions. This is also a major achievement for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, who in a strategic decision has decided to promote translational research in medicine through the establishment of the German Centres for Health Research.

The German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) with its Translational Project Management Office (TPMO) has scientifically accompanied and supported the preclinical and pharmaceutical development of BTZ-043. Further financing partners for the development of BTZ-043 are the consortium InfectControl 2020, which is funded by the BMBF, and the Free State of Thuringia. As a sponsor, the LMU Hospital is responsible for the preclinical and clinical development as well as the quality and safety of the drug. The substance is manufactured by a medium-sized company, Hapila GmbH in Gera.

contact for scientific information:
Media contact:

Professor Michael Hoelscher
Department of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine
Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich
Leopoldstraße 5
80802 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 89/4400 – 598-01
Email: hoelscher@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

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