15 March 2012 - Rockville, MD, USA | Cape Town, South Africa - The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a grant to Aeras y of up to US $220 million over five years, placing it at the forefront of a global scientific initiative aimed at developing safe, effective vaccines against tuberculosis, a disease that infects two billion people worldwide. One of the world's largest not-for-profit biotechs, Aeras is developing modern vaccines to combat TB against the backdrop of a significant increase in drug-resistant strains.
Globally, the TB vaccine field estimates it will need in excess of US$1 billion over the next five years to support worldwide efforts against a disease so complex it is expected to require more than one vaccine to address geographic variations in the strains, different stages of disease, and a variety of target populations. Aeras estimates US $400-500 million will be needed over the next five years if the organization is to accomplish critical TB vaccine development goals set jointly with global research and development partners. This grant provides approximately half of the estimated cost of meeting 2012-2016 milestone targets, while addressing significant scientific questions that must be answered in order to further successful development of new vaccines.
In the last 12 years, TB vaccine research has made dramatic strides, but it began with a tremendous handicap. Scientists had learned little about the disease since the discovery of a vaccine in 1908 that continues to have limited efficacy. So in 2000, when scientists began in earnest to search for a new vaccine, they did so in the virtual dark.
In the past decade, the number of TB vaccines in clinical trials has grown from zero to a dozen, six of which have been developed by Aeras or with support from Aeras and its partners. Two of these are currently the most clinically-advanced TB vaccine candidates in the world. Aeras scientists and their colleagues are applying what they've learned to rapidly test the best proposals coming out of laboratories around the world, in a drive to identify the most promising prospects for the next generation of vaccines.
Today's grant to Aeras will help advance several vaccine candidates into pivotal large-scale efficacy trials, build a robust and diverse pipeline of innovative, next-generation candidates, and develop and utilize key scientific approaches including challenge models, systems biology, and innovative vaccine designs to strengthen and accelerate TB vaccine development.