2017: Year in Review

2017 has been full of collaboration, hard work, and progress toward our ultimate goal: new, more effective TB vaccines and vaccination strategies for those who need them most. It has also been a year of change, for both Aeras and the field at large. This past May the Gates Foundation announced their intent to establish the Bill and Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute (Gates MRI), which will focus on accelerating the translational development of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for enteric and diarrheal diseases, malaria and TB. 

Aeras welcomed the foundation’s new commitment to developing urgently needed new TB vaccines, drugs and diagnostics, and has since been focused on forging our own strategic path forward. That includes moving Aeras preclinical projects that have been historically funded by the foundation to the Gates MRI, and determining how we can continue to best serve the mission to develop new and effective TB vaccines.

Despite the challenges presented by this shift in the field, Aeras remained focused on strengthening the global clinical and preclinical pipelines, and developing much needed new tools. This past year alone we were involved in 4 clinical trials and 3 preclinical studies, and contributed to 13 scientific publications.

In the advocacy world, World TB Day 2017 was one to remember for Aeras, as we led efforts in multiple continents to bring the TB vaccine message to key policy makers. We once again led the TB Survivor Day on Capitol Hill, in partnership with other key TB stakeholders. In South Africa, Aeras was present in affected communities as well as in small group settings with policy makers, pitching the importance of TB vaccine development. In Europe, Aeras placed blogs and articles in multiple outlets across the continent. Aeras leadership also met with UK policy makers. Meanwhile, Aeras had a strong presence on social media in China. Combined, these efforts led to increased visibility of the TB vaccine message on World TB Day.

Aeras actively participated in several multilateral events this year, providing expert consultation to the World Health Organization’s Initiative for Vaccine Research and Global Tuberculosis Program Consultation on TB Vaccine R&D, held in Geneva in early October. Aeras provided an update on the revised Aeras-TBVI TB vaccine Stage Gate process, and discussed the value proposition of a new TB vaccine. Aeras CEO Jacqui Shea chaired a session on the importance of developing a new TB vaccine for adolescents and adults.

At the 48th Union Conference in Guadalajara, MX, Aeras unveiled its new Good Participatory Practice (GPP) guidelines, created in consultation with AVAC, with the goal of engaging both researchers and communities in the fight against TB. These are the first GPP guidelines for the TB vaccine field. Aeras also held a widely attended symposium, with Dr. Dereck Tait discussing ways to accelerate research and development of TB vaccines. Finally, Aeras held a stakeholder reception where attendees got to hear speeches from Union President Jose Luis Castro and Global Caucus Chair The Right Honorable Nick Herbert among others extoling the necessity of TB vaccine research and development.

Finally, Aeras held a successful side event during the WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in Moscow, RU. The event, cosponsored by the governments of Argentina and South Africa, included an illuminating panel discussion moderated by MP Nick Herbert, with Jacqui Shea, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis Dr. Eric Goosby, WHO representative Dr. Christian Lienhardt and SATVI’s Dr. Mark Hatherill. We were honored to have South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, open the event along with Argentina’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jorge Daniel Lemus.

2017 was a very busy year for Aeras, and the momentum will continue in the months ahead. We will receive long awaited data from the field’s first ever Prevention of Infection (POI) study in Q1, which will provide valuable insights for the field. Aeras will also be involved in initiating several new clinical studies with partners from around the world. There is still much work to be done, but we thank you for sharing in our efforts and progress so far!