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New TB vaccine to be developed in Birmingham

11 February 2004

New TB vaccine to be developed in Birmingham

A RESEARCH team at Aston University has been awarded EU funding of almost half a million euros to investigate one of the most pressing problems in medicine today - the need to develop new vaccinations against Tuberculosis (TB). TB is one of the biggest killers in the world, particularly in developing countries or poor areas, and antibiotic resistance to the disease is increasing. The funding (e494,800 or �340,000), will allow Aston researchers to identify, design and test possible new vaccines for the illness. They will work alongside teams from throughout Europe on the project.

With a global incidence increasing at 2% and two million deaths each year, TB demands the highest priority among communicable diseases linked to poverty. In developing countries, the vast majority of TB cases affect the young adult population, increasing its economic impact. Though the bulk of deaths occur in developing countries, TB is an increasing global public health menace. No country is free of the disease, with incidences varying from 7 in 100,000 in Scandinavia to 300 in 100,000 in parts of Africa. In Eastern Europe the incidence has risen above 100 in 100,000 with a high incidence of multidrug resistant strains. While chemotherapy has dramatically lowered the incidence of TB in countries with robust public health systems, other countries have witnessed no decrease in incidence, but instead an increase of antibiotic resistance. For these countries, vaccination remains the most cost effective intervention.

Dr Yvonne Perrie, who leads the Aston team, explained: 'My work is primarily about discovering and developing new delivery methods for drugs and adjuvants (a substance added to a vaccine to improve the immune response in the body, so that less vaccine is needed). In this research the vaccine might still be delivered via an injection but we plan to develop a synthetic carrier system for the vaccine to improve its efficiency. We will work with our project partners in Copenhagen to produce new and improved vaccines active against TB, by combining the best delivery system/adjuvant available with the best antigen or antigens known. The best new vaccines will enter Phase I trials, a stage we hope to reach within 18 months. We can then produce optimised vaccine candidates for Phase I clinical trials amongst the public in European and TB-endemic countries.'

ENDS

For further press information please contact Sally Hoban on 0121 204 4552.

Notes for editors:

Dr Perrie is available for interview to talk about the new vaccine.

The funding has been received under the EU Sixth Framework Programme, which has as its priority life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health. The TB vaccination consortium involves European and major national or regional centres of research with expertise in immunology, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, vaccinology, and drug delivery. 30 institutions, including two vaccine producers, will participate at the start of the project, which will run for five years. Further institutions and companies will join during the clinical trails.

Aston University's main partner is the Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen. Other teams involved in the project include Oxford University, University of Birmingham, Manchester University Medical School and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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