Major boost towards future elimination of TB

Immunologist Dr Jayne Sutherland, Head of tuberculosis (TB) Immunology and the TB case-contact platform at MRC Unit The Gambia has recently won a major European grant worth €480,000.

Jayne_400x300The project, TBVAC2020, is funded through the Horizon 2020 scheme with the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and is worth €25 million over 4 years. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme. It promises more breakthroughs and discoveries by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

The project involves close to 30 partner sites all aiming to generate new TB vaccine candidates with MRC Unit The Gambia receiving €480,000.

One of the major problems with TB is the lack of a protective vaccine. Roadblocks in development are associated with many factors, including a lack of understanding of what we need from our immune system to protect us against TB. Termed ‘correlates of protection’, the main aim of TBVAC2020 is to define these protective immune responses in animal and human models and to innovate and diversify the current TB vaccine and biomarker pipeline.

Using The Unit’s unique TB case-contact (TBCC) platform, the team will analyse samples from exposed household contacts following identification of a TB index case, the first suspected or confirmed case.

All samples are linked to comprehensive epidemiological, clinical and microbiological data, making the biobank at MRC Unit The Gambia a valuable resource for biomarker identification across the TB infection spectrum. Using these samples the aim is to define correlates of protection to TB and to define markers in TB/HIV co-infection that could be used for identification of ‘at-risk’ subjects. These samples were generated as part of the Gates Grand Challenge GC6-74: Biomarkers for TB Consortium, with the aim of developing ‘Africa-wide’ signatures of risk for TB progression.

The study will begin in February 2015 with 30 sites throughout Africa, Europe and America. Jayne, who is leading the project for the Vaccinology Theme, says: “We have consistently shown the importance of multi-site studies for TB research and this is an exciting opportunity to explore new avenues for generation of novel vaccines, which could lead to future elimination of TB.”