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New times, new tactics: broadening the argument for TB vaccine development

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Jojanneke Nieuwenhuis, Associate Communications and Advocacy Relations, TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), makes a powerful case for funding for new TB vaccine development.

No extra funding for tuberculosis vaccine research? An unimaginable, even disastrous scenario that Joris Vandeputte, vice-president of the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) cannot consider. “That would delay the delivery of new vaccines with ten to fifteen years. Or more likely, the most advanced candidates would disappear completely and we would be back at square one.”

During the 42nd Union World Conference on Lung Health in France, advocates sat together to discuss how to make a better case for investment in new tools to control tuberculosis. Dr Vandeputte hosted a seminar explaining how TBVI learned to broaden the range of arguments that can be used to convince politicians and decision makers to invest in the fight against tuberculosis and specifically in new TB vaccines.

Nearly one and a half million people die from TB every year, leaving millions and millions of children orphaned. Annually, nearly nine million people fall ill with this devastating disease. In people living with HIV, tuberculosis is one of the main causes of death. These arguments however, don’t seem to be sufficient to provide the needed resources to eliminate the disease. Advocates struggle to get and keep tuberculosis on the agenda and funding for research and development fell flat in 2010, compared to 2009.

TBVI knocked on every door asking for grant money to develop new vaccines. We met friendly and less friendly faces without tangible success. Eventually people told us to create a business case, to show why it’s economically responsible to invest in these research projects. So that is what TBVI did: costs and benefits were calculated, an innovative funding model was designed. The organisation is now working with European decision makers to try and get the investment plans approved.

An amount of 560 million euros, spread over ten years, should be enough to bring one or two vaccines, perhaps more, out of TBVI’s portfolio to a point where private sector can take over. TBVI’s funding model is based on the idea that European governments can back the organisation to leverage money from European institutions such as the European Investment Bank. The invested money will be paid back through royalties and exit fees on successful vaccine candidates.

Dr Vandeputte sees numerous benefits in investing in new TB vaccines. “Tuberculosis costs 0.52 percent of the world’s GNI. That may not seem much, but it comes down to a couple of hundred billion dollars. In the WHO European region the cost of TB is over 2 billion euros and in the EU-27 region we calculate the costs to be at least 750 million euros per year. With more new, effective vaccines we can significantly reduce this financial burden and make elimination of tuberculosis by 2050 a reality for the world. As a bonus, developing new vaccines means great innovation and it can boost economies and create jobs.”

Joris Vandeputte admits it’s a challenge to create and introduce innovative forms of financing. “But we have to get this done. TB is a real threat and a serious financial burden. Without investment in new tools, we will not be able to eliminate the disease. We now have a strong portfolio with a variety of promising vaccine candidates. TBVI is ready to take the next step. We ask advocates to cry out that new tools to eliminate tuberculosis can become a reality by the end of this decade, if we invest now.”

The views expressed here are of the author.

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

November 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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