Views from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

School partners in 24.6 million euro TB vaccine development project

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a partner in a major TB vaccine initiative consortium, which has been granted a total of 24.6 million euros  from the European Commission and other government sources to discover and develop new tuberculosis vaccines.

Hazel Dockrell, Helen Fletcher and Greg Bancroft at the School are leading on three separate projects as part of the TBVAC2020 programme, which uses innovative approaches and preclinical models for vaccine development.

To meet global targets of reducing TB infection, it is essential to replace the current BCG vaccine with new and effective TB vaccines that protect all people from infection. New vaccines will also be essential to address the growing problem of multi drug resistant TB.

The TBVAC2020 project aims to innovate and diversify the current TB vaccine and biomarker pipeline, to select as early as possible the most promising TB vaccine candidates, and accelerate their development. TBVAC2020 proposes to achieve this by combining creative “bottom-up” approaches for vaccine discovery, new preclinical models addressing clinical challenges and identification and characterisation of correlates of protection.

Professor Hazel Dockrell, Steven Smith, Mateusz Hasso Agopsowicz and Shampa Anwar are part of the correlates of protection work package. They will contribute to the optimisation and harmonisation of assays used to measure potential correlates, and test them on samples from UK BCG vaccinated and unvaccinated infants , and Ugandan BCG vaccinated infants with Alison Elliott at the MRC/ Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe. They will also investigate whether different epigenetic profiles in UK and Ugandan infants might account for differences in cytokine immune responses following infant BCG vaccination in these two settings.

Helen Fletcher’s group will be investigating the impact of host-immunity on TB vaccine efficacy. They will correlate host immune responses with TB disease risk using blood samples, and assess TB vaccine efficacy using mouse models specifically selected to reflect the immune profile of infants and adults in TB endemic countries.

 Greg Bancroft, together with Felipe Cia, will evaluate the efficacy of novel vaccine candidates in preclinical models of infection. Together, these three projects will receive nearly 2 million euros funding from the TBVAC2020 programme, which involves more than 40 consortium partners in Europe, USA, Asia, Africa and Australia. It is managed by TBVI, a non-profit foundation that supports, integrates, translates and prioritises R&D efforts to discover and develop new TB vaccines that are accessible and affordable for all.

A recent report by the World Health Organization states that Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases, and in 2013 an estimated 9 million people developed TB and 1.5 million died from the disease. TB and drug resistance are also a focus of the Bloomsbury Research Institute, a partnership of the the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and UCL to research and develop innovative solutions to infectious diseases.

Image: Mycobacterium tuberculosis courtesy of TBVI 

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