The money will be channeled via Aeras, a non-profit organisation developing modern vaccines to combat TB against the backdrop of a significant increase in drug-resistant strains.
A big chunk of their TB vaccine work takes place in South Africa where many of their research partners will benefit from the grant.
‘Some of the most advanced clinical trials for tuberculosis vaccines are sponsored by Aeras and partners and are ongoing or will soon begin enrolling at five South African research institutes, including the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Worcester, the Aurum Institute in Klerksdorp, UCT’s Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative in Khayelitsha, the Perinatal HIV Research Unit in Soweto, and the Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (KID CRU) at Stellenbosch University in Parow,’ Jim Connolly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aeras.
This Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will allow Aeras to advance several vaccine candidates into pivotal large-scale efficacy trials in South Africa and elsewhere.
Aeras estimates a total of U$400-500 million will be needed over the next five years to fund activities. The Gates grant provides approximately half of the estimated cost of meeting 2012 to 2016 milestone targets.
‘Without support for this search for new vaccines from every quarter, we will never eliminate TB as a global health threat,’ said Connolly.
TB is one of history’s great global killers, killing 1,4 million people every year. One out of every three people globally is thought to be infected by the airborne TB organism, although only a portion will go on to develop the disease.
Increasing cases of drug-resistant strains of TB, reported in 80 countries over the past several years, is one of the greatest global threats from TB today. A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study reports the highest-ever recorded levels of multi-drug resistant TB worldwide.
The WHO estimates the global economic burden of TB at nearly U$12 billion a year, with India and China together accounting for more than half the global economic toll.