The Catalysis Foundation for Health has received a $5m grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discover new tuberculosis (TB) biomarkers that will be used to improve diagnostic tests and potentially develop more effective TB treatments.

Effective treatments against TB have been hindered by an inability to precisely and rapidly measure the efficacy of TB therapies, as existing methods are difficult to perform and generate imprecise clinical endpoints.

The Catalysis biomarker identification initiative is designed to focus on collecting and analysing a comprehensive set of samples from TB patients in several countries, which will then be used to identify and apply biomarkers for use in next-generation “bacterial load” diagnostic assays, similar to the effective HIV viral load assays used in managing AIDS patients.

TB research section, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Clifton E Barry said that the initiative is an important opportunity to address a critical need in TB drug development and disease management by developing quantitative measures of bacterial burden.

“Our goal is to provide new diagnostic tools to facilitate disease diagnosis, monitoring and treatment in remote geographic settings to help patients lead healthier lives free of the deadly disease caused by TB infection,” Barry said.