Report: Moscow Ministerial Conference

The first WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multi-Sectoral Response was held in Moscow, Russia on November 16-17. Key officials emphasized that TB cannot be defeated without coordinated efforts towards new and improved drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation asserted the world must “step up scientific tuberculosis research and develop effective diagnostic tools, vaccines and medicines, including those aimed at treating resistant forms of tuberculosis,” and South African Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi stated a new TB vaccine will be a game changer in the fight against the disease.

During this conference, Aeras and the TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) organized a partner side event on “The Urgent Need for New TB Vaccines to End the Epidemic.” The Ministries of Health of South Africa and Argentina co-hosted the event, which was attended by more than 60 stakeholders. The Rt. Hon. Nick Herbert MP, co-chairman of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on TB and Global TB Caucus, moderated the event with characteristic vigor and steered the discussions expertly. 

Here are some of the highlights from our panelists:

Dr. Evgeny Kamkin, Director, Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation mentioned that Russia’s national TB Research Institute of TB is currently developing two vaccine candidates whose efficacy results will be available in the coming years.

Dr. Jorge Daniel Lemus, Minister of Health of Argentina talked about Argentina´s decisive strategy against TB, with strong support for new TB vaccines: “Improved TB vaccines would not only protect people against the diseases but can also avoid relapses. We cannot reach the SDGs in 2030 without a new vaccine and a concerted effort.” He also noted that “Argentina will hold the G20 Presidency in 2018 and will advocate for prioritizing TB and TB vaccines in the political agenda.”

Precious Matsoso, Director General, Ministry of Health of South Africa described the Life Prize project, which aims to incentivize new funding for TB R&D and facilitate the development of future accessible, affordable TB treatment regimens.This model provides a good example of innovative, coordinated efforts that could also work for TB vaccine development.

Dr. Lienhardt, Team Leader and Senior Research Adviser in the Global TB Program, WHO, stressed that reducing incidence by 90% by 2025 will not be possible without a new vaccine. He noted that “We have promising vaccine candidates. On-going trials will show important data from which we can learn and better understand immune protection and how to improve vaccine design.”

Prof. Eric Goosby, United Nation’s Secretary General Special Envoy on TB discussed the challenge around investments for TB vaccine R&D. While only $95 million USD has been invested into TB vaccine development on average per year, HIV vaccine investment efforts were almost ten times more. “The world needs to acknowledge that we are underfunding promising and effective opportunities in the fight against TB. Only a new vaccine will get us across the finish line.”

Dr. Jacqueline E. Shea, CEO of Aeras, addressed the tremendous progress made in TB vaccine development that will stall without continued investment. “Data from multiple mid- and late-stage efficacy trials of novel vaccine candidates will become available over the next 3 years. This represents an unprecedented opportunity for the TB field to apply learnings from these studies to optimize and accelerate TB vaccine development. With more investment, many of these could progress in parallel and more quickly.”

Prof. Mark Hatherill, Director of SATVI (South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Institute) explained that drug-resistant - TB is a serious threat to global health, increasing treatment time and costs, and causing potentially debilitating side effects for patients. But a new vaccine “would mean less antibiotic use and ultimately less drug resistance.”

Aeras also presented at the Plenary Session on Research, Science and Innovation, along with partners from FIND and TB Alliance. The group focused on the need for new drugs, better diagnostics, and new vaccines, advocating for a holistic strategy to end TB. In particular, Aeras CEO Jacqui Shea emphasized that the field of TB vaccine research needs innovation, investment, and inclusion in any global policies to end TB.

Calls to make TB vaccines a priority were echoed elsewhere throughout the conference, and Aeras hopes to build on the momentum generated in Moscow as we look ahead to the 5th Global Forum on TB Vaccines and ultimately the UN High Level Meeting on TB in September 2018.