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 worldwide.
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 immunogenic".