The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commits to providing $280,000,000 in new grants to accelerate the development of new tools to fight the global tuberculosis epidemic, including vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments. The grants will build on the important progress that has been made in TB R&D in recent years. TB science has advanced significantly over the past five years, as new knowledge about the biology of TB has been translated into robust product development pipelines.
There is an urgent need for new TB tools - while current tools save lives, they have significant limitations: The TB vaccine is more than 80 years old and rarely works after childhood. Current TB diagnostics use technology that is more than 100 years old, and miss half of cases. TB drugs require long and cumbersome regimens, and are losing their effectiveness to rising drug resistance.
New tools could dramatically improve global TB efforts. It has been projected that even a partially-effective new TB vaccine could avert more than 30 million deaths worldwide by 2030. Improved diagnostics could help save at least 400,000 lives every year.
Following is an overview of the activities that the new grants will support:
- Vaccine development: The foundation will provide $200,000,000 over five years to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to conduct clinical trials of up to six TB vaccine candidates. Aeras and its partners have assembled a diverse portfolio of TB vaccine candidates that are ready, or may soon be ready, for clinical trials. With its new grant, Aeras will conduct Phase I and II trials of up to six TB vaccine candidates. The goal is to identify the best TB vaccines for Phase III trials.
- Diagnostics: The foundation will provide $62,000,000 over five years to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) to develop TB tests that are more accurate and simpler to use. FIND and its partners have identified a number of new diagnostics that could be more accurate than existing TB tests, and could improve diagnosis of the disease in areas that lack sophisticated healthcare facilities. FIND will use its new grant to advance development of up to 10 new TB diagnostic tests, in the hope of obtaining WHO approval of one or more tests within five years.
- Drug discovery: The foundation will provide nine grants totaling $18,000,000 to identify new TB treatments to combat drug resistance. The grants will identify leads for new drug compounds that are more effective than current treatment options. The drug discovery grants include:
- $7,500,000 million to Seattle Biomedical Research Institute
- Two grants totaling $3,700,000 to Colorado State University
- Two grants totaling $2,400,000 to Weill Cornell Medical College
- $1,800,000 to Johns Hopkins University
- $1,700,000 million to Ordway Research Institute
- $750,000 to Northeastern University
- $453,000 to Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
The grants will bring together a wide range of partners, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, as well as scientists from countries heavily affected by TB. For example, Aeras has helped establish a world-class TB research center in South Africa, one of the countries most seriously affected by TB.
TB infects one-third of people globally and kills nearly two million people a year. It has been projected that even a partially-effective new TB vaccine could avert more than 30 million deaths worldwide by 2030.