Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

South Africa Plays Leading Role in the Development of New Tuberculosis Vaccines

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March 26, 2013

This week more than 250 scientists, researchers, and Tuberculosis (TB) advocates from all over the world will gather in Cape Town, South Africa, at the Third Global Forum on TB Vaccines  to share findings and look to the future of TB vaccine research and development. This is the first time the world’s top TB vaccine experts will hold their global forum on the African continent. South Africa is in a unique position as an emerging economy at the cutting edge of innovation and scientific research coupled with a devastating TB epidemic, in which TB incidence has increased by 400% over the past 15 years, and where control is hampered by HIV co-infection and a raising number of patients affected with MDR strains.  This juxtaposition makes it an important location for experts to address the growing TB epidemic with forward-thinking, aggressive approaches.

The South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) is playing host to the global gathering at the University of Cape Town.  As part of a global consortium, SATVI ran the recently completed late-stage, Phase IIb clinical trial of a new TB vaccine – the largest, most advanced TB vaccine clinical trial to date. While the results from this trial were not what researchers had desired, there is still optimism in the field.  The partners involved showed that a large-scale clinical trial aimed at testing a vaccine in infants can be designed and run efficiently in a setting with a high TB burden, while adhering to the highest standards of good clinical trial practices.  Analysis from this trial is also providing insights into correlates of risk of TB disease, the biological markers that predict risk of advancing to active TB disease after being infected.

The international gathering provides a forum for increased collaboration and will feature updates on the more than a dozen additional vaccine candidates in clinical trials and developments with the next generation of vaccines in the pipeline. The meeting will also focus on means to foster greater collaboration across organizations and institutes in order to efficiently capitalize on limited financial resources.

 No one organization, researcher, or country can do this alone. South Africa’s scientists and policymakers have created a renowned model for carrying out world-class TB vaccine research, but this needs to be replicated globally.  Ultimate success is only possible if the global community scales up support for the quest to develop effective, life-saving vaccines against an increasingly deadly disease.

 According to the WHO , around $1.6 billion a year is needed to adequately prevent the spread of tuberculosis, with a funding gap of $1.4 billion a year for TB research and development into new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. R&D for new diagnostics and new drugs are vitally important to address TB’s impact today; however, drugs alone will not control the spread of TB, and a long-term solution is crucial. New vaccines are a critical part of the solution to get ahead of this epidemic.

The Third Global Forum on TB Vaccines is taking place at an important moment for the tuberculosis research community.  We are pleased to be in a country that is and will continue to be integral to the push for new TB vaccines, surrounded by people who are passionate about finding a final solution to a disease that has plagued humanity for far too long.

 
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