At the 5th Global Forum on TB Vaccine, experts agreed that there is an urgent need to develop an effective vaccine against both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant (Multi Drug Resistant and Totally Drug Resistant) TB. The target set forth in the WHO End TB Strategy to end the TB epidemic by 2035 cannot be achieved without new vaccines, as well as improved diagnostics and treatment.
“A crucial pillar of the Government of India’s TB elimination response is the increased focus on R&D. We recently established the India TB Research Consortium to drive TB R&D efforts in the country. The consortium is working with public and private institutes, to guide the country’s research efforts towards the development of point-of-care diagnostics, shorter treatment regimens and an effective vaccine. We are confident that this forum will accelerate efforts and we hope to see a new TB vaccine is the near future,” said Anupriya Patel, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare.
The Forum is convened under the aegis of the Stop TB Partnership Working Group on New Vaccines. The organising partners for the forum include the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and International organizers, Aeras and the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), both of which are non-profit organizations, facilitate the development of new, effective TB vaccines that are affordable and accessible.
R&D is one of the pillars of the WHO’s End TB Strategy and will play a pivotal role in achieving global elimination targets. However, a recent analysis indicates that globally, none of the key research areas i.e., drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and operational research achieved the recommended levels of funding outlined in the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015. Global funding for TB R&D in 2015 was $621 million (₹ 4,252 crores) – its lowest level since 2008. While the Global Plan to End TB, 2016-2020, calls for annual investments of $250 million in TB vaccine research, vaccine R&D experienced the greatest decrease in funding from previous years, receiving only a little over $80 million in 2015.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General (Programmes), WHO, and Co-Chair of the 5th Global Forum, said, “The WHO End TB Strategy recognises the centrality of accelerating TB R&D efforts, especially for the development of an effective TB vaccine, to achieve our TB elimination efforts. Considering the country’s expertise and experience in developing affordable and effective vaccines, the large number of young scientists, and the government’s push for indigenous product development, it is appropriate that the Global Forum has chosen India as the venue for this conference, and we’re glad to witness such large scale participation.”