Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide grant for TB vaccine research

Aeras, a non-governmental organisation, has received a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of up to US $220 million over the next five years, for promoting scientific initiative aimed at developing safe, effective vaccines against tuberculosis, a disease that infects two billion people worldwide.

One of the world's largest not-for-profit organisation, Aeras is developing modern vaccines to combat TB against the backdrop of a significant increase in drug-resistant strains.

The World Health Organisation estimates the global economic burden of TB at nearly $12 billion a year, with India and China together accounting for more than half the global economic toll. London has the highest TB rate of any capital city in Western Europe, making it one of the city's biggest health problems today. And a new World Health rganization/European Union plan to address drug-resistant TB estimates18 per cent of the global burden of resistant TB is in the European region.

In the United States, just one case of extremely drug-resistant TB is estimated to cost a quarter-million dollars to treat. “This infusion of funding…will allow Aeras to expand upon existing partnerships in Europe, Africa, China, and around the world, and to build new partnerships that will accelerate the development of safe and effective vaccines. But the scientific challenges are immense, and the threat is global. Without support for this search for new vaccines from every quarter, we will never eliminate TB as a global health threat,” said Jim Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Aeras.

Globally, the TB vaccine field estimates it will need in excess of US $1 billion over the next five years to support worldwide efforts against a disease so complex it is expected to require more than one vaccine to address geographic variations in the strains, different stages of disease, and a variety of target populations.

Aeras estimates US $400-500 million will be needed over the next five years if the organisation is to accomplish critical TB vaccine development goals set jointly with global research and development partners. This grant provides approximately half of the estimated cost of meeting 2012-2016 milestone targets, while addressing significant scientific questions that must be answered in order to further successful development of new vaccines.

In the last 12 years, TB vaccine research has made dramatic strides, but it began with a tremendous handicap. Scientists had learned little about the disease since the discovery of a vaccine in 1908 that continues to have limited efficacy. So in 2000, when scientists began in earnest to search for a new vaccine, they did so in the virtual dark. In the past decade, the number of TB vaccines in clinical trials has grown from zero to a dozen, six of which have been developed by Aeras or with support from Aeras and its partners.