About infectious diseases

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Roche research in infectious diseases addresses areas of high unmet medical need and aims at revolutionising treatment paradigms.

Infectious diseases caused by viral or bacterial pathogens are a major cause of death and morbidity worldwide and constitute an ever growing medical need. Developing countries are strongly affected, but the Western World and East Asia are also facing considerable healthcare challenges in this area.

Roche focuses on discovery, research and development of new anti-infective agents, targeting both the pathogen as well as the host immune defences. In this, we build on an industry-leading technology platform and on a rich legacy of research in this field, which produced some outstanding therapeutics throughout Roche's history.

Currently, infectious diseases research at Roche focuses on three main areas:

Chronic Hepatitis B Infection

HBV is the most pathogenic of all hepatitis types, because it is frequently and strongly associated with irreversible liver damage, chronic active hepatitis, and the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Current HBV medicines can effectively suppress viral replication, but achieve a cure in fewer than 3% of patients and do not eliminate the risk of liver cancer. The inability to achieve a cure means that treatment must usually be lifelong.

Our strategy to achieve a HBV cure with finite treatment is to combine two very different therapeutic approaches: one targeting the HBV life cycle (direct antivirals), and the other boosting the immune system’s ability to clear the virus (immune enhancers).

Influenza

Influenza, or ‘flu’, represents a serious threat to public health – globally, annual epidemics result in 3 to 5 million cases of severe disease, millions of hospitalisations and up to 650,000 deaths worldwide. The flu can affect anyone and can be deadly for those who are vulnerable to complications - such as the young or elderly.

Although vaccines are an important first line of defence, there is a need for new medical options to prevent (prophylaxis) and treat flu. As flu viruses replicate they are constantly changing and so antiviral drugs become ineffective against them - the virus builds up antiviral resistance. Current antiviral drugs also have limitations with respect to efficacy and convenience of dosing.

Utilising its heritage and expertise in flu, Roche is developing new medicines which address the unmet need in this area.

Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria

Despite more than 150 antibiotics currently on the market, the medical need is far from covered. Bacterial infections that do not react to any of the existing drugs or require complex, lengthy and often toxic multi-drug treatments are a growing issue. Multi-drug-resistant Gram-negative bacterial strains are unanimously perceived as the biggest threat.

Leveraging its expertise in diagnostics, Roche is also pursuing new approaches to treat drug resistant bacterial infections.

HBV virus - the little big enemy