The Aeras Global TB
Vaccine Foundation is a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP)
dedicated to the development of effective TB vaccine regimens that will prevent tuberculosis in all age groups and will be affordable, available and used
Aeras is based in suburban Washington with
operations around the world, including research centers in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Jerald Sadoff has been Aeras' CEO since the organization was founded in 2003.
He has extensive experience in medical research, having worked
in institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Now, five
years later, Dr. Sadof says Aeras has grown into a state-of-the art facility
that is "at the frontier of finding a TB vaccine." Tuberculosis poses a great
challenge for many countries in Africa, especially given the inadequate health
systems that are already strained by the AIDS pandemic. In many of these
countries the rates of HIV/AIDS patients with TB have continue to increase. Dr.
Sadof says Aeras will soon develop and deploy a TB vaccine. He says fighting
the disease will require a comprehensive approach that includes "new and more
effective vaccines, as well as improved diagnostics and treatment."
The current TB vaccine was created in 1921. Known
as the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, it is only partially effective.
It provides some protection against severe forms of pediatric TB, but is
unreliable against adult pulmonary TB, which accounts for most of the disease
burden worldwide. Although BCG is available and continues to be administered to
millions around the world, Dr. Sadoff says "there have never been as many cases
of TB on the planet as we see currently."
Annmarie Leadman at Aeras' main offices says the
company recognizes the urgency of the situation. Her colleague recently returned from a
trip in Uganda, where Aeras is building a world class research lab to conduct
tests and develop the vaccine. Aeras is also operating in South Africa, where
it is currently carrying out trial and vaccine development.
A new vaccine
would be a vital tool in the current fight against drug-resistant strains. Dr. Sadof
says that even though TB evolves to become resistant to drugs, "the vaccine is
in a sense the only true hope if MDR and XDR become a continuing problem." Dr Sadof
explains the complex process of developing the vaccine starting from the
existing BCG vaccine. The new generation of TB vaccines will work using a
strategy called "prime boosting." An initial vaccine, either the
existing BCG vaccine or one made, for example, from a new recombinant BCG
(rBCG), would be administered to a person. This "prime" inoculation
would be followed by a "booster" shot. "We have discovered that a
recombinant vaccine when given induces a very strong cellular immunity in
humans. So we have modified the original BCG vaccine…to be safer and