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- Tuberculosis kills over 1.6 million per year.
- The M72 vaccine is the first new TB vaccine in a century.
- Clinical testing is set to begin in 2024.
A century-long void
The fight against Tuberculosis (TB) has been marked by a glaring absence: a modern, effective vaccine. While TB continues to exert a heavy toll, claiming 1.6 million lives in 2021 and affecting over 10.6 million individuals, the medical community has been relying on the century-old Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine. Its limited protection, especially against pulmonary tuberculosis in adults and adolescents, underscores the urgency of the situation.
Despite the pressing need, the path to developing an improved vaccine has been riddled with problems. Limited funding, political inertia, and logistical hurdles in treatment access, especially in high-burden regions, have compounded the problem. The BCG vaccine, while historically significant, falls short in addressing the modern complexities of the disease.
M72: A beacon after 100 years?
With the M72 vaccine, the world might be on the cusp of a breakthrough. Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have recognized the gravity of the situation and are channeling considerable resources into the project.
- Wellcome's commitment translates to roughly $191 million.
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is set to cover the remaining $509 million.
These funds will fuel the Phase 3 clinical trial, scheduled for 2024, targeting regions with high TB prevalence, including Africa and South East Asia. The trial's scope is expansive, set to include diverse groups such as those with latent TB and individuals living with HIV.
The road ahead
Should the M72 vaccine prove effective, it could potentially fill a century-long gap in TB prevention.
But this is just one piece of a larger puzzle. For a comprehensive TB response, it is crucial to integrate the vaccine with improved diagnostic tools, effective drug regimens, and global strategies.
News tips: Thomas Ahlström