Major new grant for tuberculosis vaccine research

In February the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a US$82.9 million grant to fund the search for a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis (TB). The grant is the largest ever for TB vaccine research. It was given to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, a US-based research organization that is developing two TB vaccine candidates. Currently, the only available vaccine against TB, called BCG, primarily protects infants and young children against severe TB; it does not work as well in adults. The search for a TB vaccine has been slow due to lack of funding and lack of involvement on the part of major pharmaceutical companies—some of the same factors which have also slowed AIDS vaccine research. TB is one of the leading causes of death in people infected with HIV, and an effective TB vaccine is urgently needed. Dr. Jerald Sadoff, president of Aeras, says that it will take eight to ten years to evaluate these vaccine candidates and make them available, if they prove effective.