August saw two major milestones for diagnosing and curing extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR TB—the most drug-resistant of TB strains. On 14 August, the US drug regulator approved a new drug—Pretomanid—only the third new antibiotic developed to fight TB in over half a century. It’s a ray of hope for some 2,700 people living with the superbug in India, as per 2018 figures from the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP).
Pretomanid is promising, especially since, unlike the last two drugs—Bedaquiline and Delamanid—it is developed by the non-profit TB Alliance rather than a traditional pharma company.
History repeats itself
MedGenome has a silver bullet for TB diagnostics, but no gun
India—home to the largest number of people living with drug-resistant TB—now has a first-of-its-kind test to diagnose TB drug resistance fast and with precision. But like the two diagnostic tests before it, SPIT SEQ must now figure out how to sell to millions
India’s 2.8 million TB patients received a rare dose of good news in August—an indigenous, more thorough and accurate test for TB
But SPIT SEQ’s path to the mass market won’t be easy. At Rs 7,500, it’s close to 10X more expensive than existing diagnostic tools like TrueNat and GeneXpert
It took TrueNat years to get approval to become part of the national TB programme. SPIT SEQ, though, is from the stable of Sequoia-funded MedGenome
With deep-pocketed backers and a huge potential market the world over, SPIT SEQ could still have a bright future