Gates Foundation commits up to $220 million to Aeras for new TB vaccines

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed as much as $220 million over the next five years to Aeras, a Rockville, Maryland-based non-profit dedicated to developing new tuberculosis vaccines.

The grant extends the Gates Foundation's backing of Aeras. The non-profit's pipeline includes several early- and mid-stage TB vaccine candidates being developed through academic and pharmaceutical partnerships.

The $220 million is approximately half of what Aeras needs to meet its vaccine development targets through 2016. The company said that it will use the money for the funding of large-scale efficacy trials, to strengthen its pipeline with next-gen candidates, and to utilize and develop important scientific approaches to accelerate the development of a better vaccine against TB.

TB is on the increase worldwide due to new drug-resistant strains. The disease's comeback has led to a renewed push to replace BCG, the current 90-year-old vaccine. The two most advanced candidates that Aeras currently has in the pipeline are MVA85A and AERAS-402/Crucell AD35. The former was developed in a partnership with the Rockville-based Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., and the University of Oxford. It is a booster vaccine that is now in Phase 2b trials. The other vaccine is also a booster in Phase 2 trials and is being developed with Crucell NV, a Dutch biotechnology company.