Ending the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic will require developing and deploying new safe, effective, and affordable TB vaccines, and the next few years will be a decisive chapter in this unfolding story. Much of the excitement has centered on a vaccine candidate called M72/AS01E, which is expected to begin a phase III efficacy trial later this year. But the M72/AS01E phase III trial is only part of the story. For the first time, ever, the TB vaccine field is preparing to mount multiple phase III trials of several different vaccine candidates. Collectively, these studies will enroll tens of thousands of people and take place in over a dozen countries. A phase III trial sponsored by the Indian Council of Medical Research—which is evaluating two candidate vaccines called VPM1002 and MIP—is expected to share results sometime in 2023. And next-generation candidates, including the first mRNA-based TB vaccines, are entering early phase I studies.
There’s a lot to pay attention to; and yet, the promising science in the pipeline is threatened by the severe funding shortfall for TB vaccine research and development (R&D). In addition, the future availability and accessibility of new TB vaccines depends on preparations that governments, manufacturers, advocates, and other stakeholders begin making today, while clinical trials are underway, instead of waiting until results are in hand.
On April 13 Treatment Action Group (TAG) presented this webinar about these and other important developments in TB vaccine research. The webinar provided an overview of the TB vaccine pipeline, based on TAG’s recent Tuberculosis Vaccines Pipeline Report, including the different candidates at different stages of research and ongoing and upcoming studies that advocates should closely follow. This webinar was intended for community, civil society, and other advocates and interested stakeholders. Participants had an opportunity to ask questions about the pipeline with no specialized knowledge of TB vaccine research assumed.
By better understanding the pipeline, participants will be equipped to advocate for TB vaccines at upcoming events like the UN High-Level Meeting on TB; build demand for new TB vaccines by sharing information with communities; and support governments as they undertake clinical trials and begin preparing for new TB vaccine policymaking and introduction.
Mike Frick is one of the co-directors of the Treatment Action Group (TAG) tuberculosis project, where he leads TAG’s advocacy to support universal access to the highest standard of TB prevention, including research to develop new TB vaccines and preventive therapies. He authors TAG’s annual Tuberculosis Vaccines Pipeline Report, which reviews TB vaccines in clinical development.
Dr. Sara Suliman is an infectious disease immunologist and an assistant professor in the Division of Experimental Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She has extensive experience in biomarker discovery and clinical trials of candidate TB vaccines. Her lab uses multiple approaches to understand risk of progression to active TB disease and to identify candidate TB risk pathways and their role in TB progression.
Laia Ruiz Mingote is a consultant and advocate in global health communication, social research, human rights, gender, community engagement in clinical trials and strategy at the Social Com cooperative. She is a journalist and anthropologist by training at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Keyuri Bhanushali is a TB survivor and a fierce advocate for ending the global TB epidemic. Her passion for advocacy has driven her to collaborate with organizations such as Survivors against TB organisation, TBPPM learning Network, IDDS, and PATH, in order to advance TB advocacy programs and improve the lives of those impacted by this disease.
Dr. Bakul Piplani is an early career researcher interested in developing new tools to help eradicate tuberculosis (TB). She earned her doctorate in biological sciences from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in 2022 with a specialization in the molecular biology of microorganisms. Her doctoral research improved the understanding of the roles of two key Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteins in pathogen survival.