Each year, tuberculosis kills nearly two million people while an estimated nine million develop the disease -- with the hardest-hit areas in AIDS-afflicted developing nations.
One of the most pressing challenges is the increase in drug-resistant TB. "No Time to Wait: Overcoming Gaps in TB Drug R&D," a symposium -- organized by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and supported by Howard P. Milstein and Weill Cornell Medical College's Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology -- will bring together a wide range of infectious disease experts and organizations to discuss practical ways of overcoming the current bottlenecks in TB drug research and development.
The event takes place today and tomorrow at the Cornell Club in Manhattan and will feature an introductory address by Howard P. Milstein, a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College and trustee emeritus and presidential councilor of Cornell University.
"An additional 450,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB are seen every year, including people recently diagnosed with particularly lethal new resistant strains," says Mr. Milstein. "We must urgently find new ways of developing new treatments, including fast-tracking clinical trials of promising anti-TB compounds as well as funding strategies for TB research and development initiatives."
The drugs in today's standard TB treatment were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, and the most commonly used TB test -- developed more than a century ago -- manages to detect TB in only about half of the cases. Existing TB drugs and tests are even less adapted for use in people who also have HIV/AIDS. To respond to the devastating impact of TB, especially in developing countries, newer medicines will urgently need to get to patients by working with regulatory agencies, drug development initiatives and pharmaceutical companies to ensure fast-track clinical development and availability of new drugs.
Other participating institutions and government agencies include the World Health Organization, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) /National Institutes of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis AG, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Columbia University, Rockefeller Foundation, European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), Brazilian Society of Respiratory Diseases, St. George's Hospital Medical School of London, Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Institute for Tuberculosis Research University of Illinois at Chicago, Yale Law School, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi), Tibotec, Denver Health and Hospitals, Treatment Action Group, and the Consumer Project on Technology.
In June 2006, the Milsteins donated $7.25 million to Weill Cornell Medical College to establish the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Chemistry Core Facility and the Abby and Howard P. Milstein Program in Chemical Biology of Infectious Disease.
Howard Milstein is Chairman of New York Private Bank and Trust, as well as Co-Chairman, President and CEO of Emigrant Savings Bank. He serves as a Trustee of Cornell University, where he received his undergraduate degree in 1973. He has been a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College since 1989. The Milstein family has a long history of generosity in support of Weill Cornell.