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$3 million grant from the Gates Foundation for tuberculosis vaccine research

TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) recently received a $3million grant for a three year term from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This grant enables the nonprofit organization to strengthen its fundraising and communication activities in order to increase awareness and support for tuberculosis (TB) vaccine research and raise funds for the development of safer and more effective vaccines.

In the coming 10 years TBVI hopes to raise 200 million euros from governments, foundations and private industry for the discovery and early clinical development of new vaccines. Development of new vaccines is crucial because the only existing vaccine, BCG, is not very effective in young adults, the group of people mostly affected by the disease.

“New vaccines are essential to achieve the international aim of a TB-free world in 2050. We need several types, not only for initial protection against TB, but also to boost adolescent immunity and prevent disease in latently infected individuals,” explains Jelle Thole, director of TBVI. “To enable development of these vaccines, more investment is needed.”

TBVI financially and practically supports and facilitates a growing international network of over thirty universities, institutes and industries involved in research and development of new TB vaccines. The organization evolved from TBVAC, a European Union (EU) funded project to identify good candidates for new TB vaccines. TBVAC has yielded five new TB vaccine candidates, fifteen candidate biomarkers and three candidate adjuvant molecules. These hopeful candidates are now in preclinical development or even clinical phase.

TBVI is extremely pleased with the encouraging new signs of progress on TB. “Because of this funding, we can continue to change new discoveries into real vaccines,” says Joris Vandeputte, senior vice president Fundraising & Advocacy at TBVI. “These vaccines are urgently needed, as the resurrection of TB is a ticking time bomb. Many people believe it is a disease of the past, but in fact it is endangering our future, taking almost 1.8 million lives a year.”

The global burden of TB is slowly falling, but still two billion people, about one third of the world’s population, are estimated to be infected with the mycobacteria that cause TB. Most of them develop a latent infection, with about a 10 percent risk of developing the infectious disease later in life. People with HIV are 20 times more likely to develop the symptoms once they are infected. Efficient drugs to treat TB are available, but involve a long and burdensome treatment period of up to a year. Additionally, worldwide prevalence of various forms of drug-resistant TB poses an increasing problem and enormous challenges to effective treatment.

With new infections occurring at a rate of one per second, millions of people develop TB symptoms every year. In 2007, there were 9.27 million new cases. 500,000 of those were multi-drug resistant and 50,000 of those were extensively drug resistant (source: World Health Organization).

Jac Niessen | alfa
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