New TB Vaccines: A matter of political will

TB vaccine research is moving forward steadily. In their 2010 annual report, the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) looks back at a scientifically successful year. Researchers within TBVI’s network are progressing towards new, safer and more effective tuberculosis vaccines. However, in order to successfully deliver these live-saving vaccines to the market, both political support and innovative investment are crucial. Worldwide, 12 vaccine candidates are now in various phases of clinical trials and several more are on their way. Many of these candidates received support through one of TBVI’s research projects. 

“Good reason to be positive,” said Prof. Kaufmann, chair of TBVI’s research project NEWTBVAC. “Having 12 candidates in clinical trials is a breakthrough that nobody would have thought of 20 years ago.” In 2010, existing challenges remained though, one of them being a lack of validated biomarkers, indicators that could for example predict levels of protection. Finding these biomarkers is one of TBVI’s research priorities and research carried out over the past year has certainly led to a better idea of what to look for.

Developing new tuberculosis vaccines is scientifically challenging, but the progress that has been made over the past ten years is tremendous. TBVI ties together a network of more than 40 research institutes, universities and industries with the aim to develop more effective tuberculosis vaccines. TBVI calculated a critical financing gap of 560 million euros, needed to bring the first, most advanced vaccines out of its portfolio to the market. In order to close this gap, the organisation has proposed an innovative funding model. In this plan, European governments are asked to provide guarantees to make it possible for TBVI to finance clinical trials through a loan. The loan can then be repaid through the sales of marketed vaccines. “New vaccines can be developed at no cost for the tax-payer and with minimal risk for state budgets,” explains TBVI’s vice president Joris Vandeputte.

New, more effective and safe tuberculosis vaccines are within sight. However, some promising projects are close to being put on hold because of a lack of funding. New vaccines could be available within a decade. It’s now up to decision makers, politicians and industries to join forces with scientists and make this happen.

How much closer did we get to delivering new tuberculosis vaccines in 2010? What were highlights, milestones and challenges? Read TBVI’s 2010 Annual Report here

Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis
(The author is an Associate Communications and Advocacy Relations, TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative - TBVI)

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