Savic receives NIH funding to establish tuberculosis consortium

Rada Savic, PhD, co-vice dean of Graduate Pharmacy Education Programs at the UCSF School of Pharmacy and a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences (BTS), has been awarded a $30.8M grant over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The UM1 cooperative agreement will establish a consortium of tuberculosis (TB) preclinical and clinical experts to research the most effective treatment options for future clinical testing.

Savic will be a principal investigator of the Preclinical Design and Clinical Translation of TB Regimens (PReDicTR) Consortium. Co-principal investigators include Eric Nuermberger, MD, of Johns Hopkins University; Kelly Dooley, MD, PhD, MPH, of Vanderbilt University; and Dirk Schnappinger, PhD, of Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

UCSF School of Medicine faculty members Gustavo Velásquez, MD, MPH; Patrick Phillips, PhD, MS, MA; and Devan Jaganath, MD, MPH, also will be involved, along with additional collaborators from Colorado State University, University of Colorado Denver, Tufts College, The Rockefeller University, Stellenbosch University, Leiden University, The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development Inc., and HMH Hospitals Corporation.

Globally, TB is the second leading cause of death by an infectious disease, after coronavirus disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10.6 million people became ill with TB and 1.3 million died of TB disease in 2022.

PReDicTR will establish a multidisciplinary consortium of scientific leaders, drug developers, and other stakeholders to comprehensively assess evolving preclinical research challenges and opportunities, with the goal of identifying novel regimens that have the greatest potential for clinical success in adults and children with TB.

“By integrating multi-scale and multi-level clinical data, we aim to determine the right dose, right schedule, and right treatment duration of various therapies,” said Savic. “Our purpose is to accelerate the preclinical design of promising regimens for future clinical testing, with pediatric populations as a key focus.”

Unprecedented coordination and collaboration

To date, the landscape of academic scientists, drug developers, clinical trialists, community members, and funders is fragmented and has hampered efforts to coordinate research aimed at efficiently designing and advancing effective new TB regimens. The long duration and multidrug nature of TB treatment regimens also poses obstacles to treatment completion for patients and providers.

The TB community is shifting its focus toward interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration, and PReDicTR is at the forefront of this effort. The new consortium, which plans to develop an unprecedented level of data and knowledge integration, will require substantial federal programmatic staff involvement to help investigators perform their research activities.

“We are well-positioned to leverage the consortium’s vast expertise and collaborative infrastructure to design and advance novel TB regimens into clinical trials,” said Velásquez, an assistant professor in the Division of HIV, Infectious Diseases, and Global Medicine, who will be leading PReDicTR’s administrative core. “This claim is supported by our track record, long-standing collaborations, and strong preliminary results, which underscore the consortium’s potential to design new and improved TB regimens from drugs currently in development.”

Creative data-sharing and innovation

Alleviating the global burden of TB through research to discover or improve diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines is a top priority for NIAID, and the UCSF Center for Tuberculosis (CTB) has been bringing together world-class experts spanning bench science to clinical trials, global health delivery, economics, and diplomacy.

Savic has been leading this work as co-director of the UCSF Center for Tuberculosis, along with Babak Javid, MB, PhD and Elizabeth Fair, PhD, MPH, as well as with director Payam Nahid, MD, MPH, who recently was named executive director of UCSF’s Institute for Global Health Sciences (IGHS).

“We are deeply committed to a culture of data-sharing and the development of cross-sector, innovative collaborations, of which the PReDicTR Consortium is clearly one,” said UCSF School of Pharmacy Dean Kathy Giacomini, PhD, BSPharm. “We’re extremely proud to see these creative efforts that make the most efficient use of existing global resources and align with our strategic plan goal of increasing transformative partnerships.”

“Without a validated early biomarker able to discriminate regimens with different curative potential, the field depends heavily on preclinical models,” said Savic. “This collaboration is essential for accelerating work that will bring new treatments to the patients who need them most, and this grant will help us bring more precise and personalized treatment options to patients with unmet need more quickly.”


School of Pharmacy, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.