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[NEW DELHI] The Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) programme — a global collaborative initiative supported by the Indian government to find affordable treatment for neglected tropical diseases — has suffered a temporary setback due to a funds crunch caused by tardy submission of funding estimates. 

OSDD was launched in Delhi in 2008 and its partners include Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, the TB Alliance and Medicines for Malaria. The programme covers drugs discovery and their trials to combat TB, malaria and leishmaniasis.

Funding for the programme, estimated to cost US$ 100 million for five years starting 2013, could not be cleared by the cabinet of ministers before the end of the financial year on 31 March 2014, says an official of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who asked not to be named. 

The proposal will now be re-submitted to a new government that is expected to be in place by mid-May, following general elections.  

An interim sum of US$ 1.3 million has been sanctioned, though the  CSIR official said it will “not take OSDD anywhere near drug discovery.”  

Meanwhile,  OSDD head T S Balganesh says that “all projects (under OSDD) will be affected in some way or the other, but the strategy is to minimise the effects of the delay by investigating other possible routes of funding which have been initiated.”

The strategy will prioritise projects absolutely critical to maintain the momentum of the OSDD with current funds. A priority project would be phase III multi-centric trials on a new drug combination to combat multi-drug resistant TB, Balganesh says.

Leena Menghaney, India coordinator of the international medical charity Medicins Sans Frontiere’s Access Campaign, says OSDD is channelling India's expertise and funding into critically needed research and development for drug-resistant TB.

"It is critical that CSIR take action to save the project. It is in the process of setting up a platform for drug-resistant TB drug trials which will allow India to participate in developing new drug regimens for drug-resistant TB."

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.

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