The New York-based Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (also known as the TB Alliance) has received $104 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to advance a pipeline of new tuberculosis (TB) drugs over the next five years. The funding will be particularly applicable in Africa, where TB remains a major health problem, the group said.

"Tuberculosis is one of the world's oldest infectious agents and has always posed challenges for the scientific community," said Peter Small, senior program officer at the foundation. "But now, we have the technology and the know-how to find a faster, simpler cure. New treatments could free patients from a grueling six-month regimen and, ultimately, save millions of lives."

The four standard drugs used to treat tuberculosis are more than 40 years old and take at least six months to work effectively, added Small. In Africa, TB is a leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS, but current treatment cannot easily be combined with the antiretrovirals used to treat HIV.

"A package of powerful new drugs will mean we can treat more people better -- including those co-infected with HIV and those suffering multi-drug resistant forms of the disease," noted Maria Freire, CEO and president of the TB Alliance.