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Dutch invest in TB vaccines

Funding from the Netherlands could spur more investment from other nations for treatments

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS) has pledged $18.4m to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to aid development of more effective vaccines for the disease.

US-based Aeras is collaborating with Dutch biotechnology firm, Crucell - the products of which include vaccines for typhoid and Hepatitis B - the Dutch KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation and the Netherlands Cancer Institute, in the development of TB vaccines.

The Netherlands is taking a leading role in the battle against TB, both in terms of investment and in the knowledge and expertise in TB control.

The Ministry is also investing $12m to develop new TB drugs and diagnostics, the current versions of which are deemed to be insufficient to combat the growing tuberculosis pandemic.

In total, the DGIS $30.4m investment is the single largest contribution ever by any country for the development of new tools against TB.

The funding has also made a valuable contribution to Crucell and Aeras' AdVac-based TB vaccine. This initiative is a crucial step forwards in the continued development of our vaccine that is currently in phase I clinical trials, said Dr Jaap Goudsmit, CSO of Crucell.

AdVac technology supports the practice of inserting genetic material from the disease-causing virus, or parasite, into a vector, which then delivers the immunogenic material directly to the immune system of the patient.

The trial is an open-label study testing the vaccine in a dose-escalation trial involving 24 healthy volunteers.

Funding from the Dutch government, which will be disbursed over a four-year period, comes at a time when the number of cases of drug-resistant TB is increasing at an alarming rate. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that some 450,000 new cases of drug-resistant TB develop each year.

While TB is typically defined as a disease that afflicts people in poverty-stricken regions, increased global travel and immigration are fuelling the rising incidence of drug-resistant disease, causing concern in the developed world.

The growing risk of drug-resistant TB has led to something of a renaissance in the development of vaccines for the disease and led to increased global funding - after 30 years of limited investment - which Aeras TB Global president and CEO, Dr Jerald Sadoff, hopes will be further remedied by the recent Dutch input.

The Netherlands has shown great global leadership to develop new solutions to world health problems that burden developing countries. DGIS' strong financial support will both speed development of a new vaccine and help mobilise commitments from other donor countries.

Vaccines have wiped out smallpox and nearly eliminated polio. A vaccine for TB could reverse the tide of the TB pandemic and save millions of lives, he said.

2nd September 2008

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