Researchers from Doctors Without Borders argue that a lack of candidate compounds is “cause for alarm,” given the global emergence of strains of tuberculosis that are resistant to current drugs.

In a new study, authors Martina Casenghi (MSF) and colleagues argue that the few drug companies engaged in TB drug development are risk-averse, generally embarking on drug development only when given evidence of rigorously validated targets and lead compounds that inhibit them. As a result, it has fallen largely to academia to undertake early stage drug discovery.

Alternative approaches are needed, says Casenghi, to stimulate research and development of TB drugs. They lay out one such approach, which they call “open-access drug discovery entities,” in which academia and industry collaborate and share their results at the earliest opportunity.

“One way to ensure that priority medical needs are met while providing economic incentives,” the study stated, “is to register resulting patents under a patent track that rewards products based on the impact they have in reducing the global burden of disease.”