TB researchers, advocates must work together for effective vaccine, experts say

According to representatives of Aeras, a Rockville, Maryland-based non-profit dedicated to developing new vaccines for tuberculosis, TB researchers and advocates must work together to support a common goal of a more effective vaccine.

Jennifer Woolley, the company's director of advocacy, and Melody Kennell, the company's communications and development intern, wrote that researchers and advocates can have a mutually beneficial relationship, with researchers providing the data and advocates providing the platforms for spreading the information. The authors gave several recommendations for bridging the gap between the two occasionally disparate groups.

According to the authors, researchers provide advocates with the scientific evidence needed to support major messages and to lend expertise to advocacy efforts. Advocates can help to translate the findings in research and development for a lay audience and can link together researchers, other advocacy groups, policymakers, donors and communities the research is intended to serve. The authors wrote that civil society organizations can help to shorten the divide between researchers and the community by creating a dialogue between the two.

Woolley and Kennell recommend that researchers and advocates use international and national forums to learn and to keep each other informed, identify chances for researchers to share both their knowledge and their findings, share information while developing common messages and a common language, and involve civil society in clinical research.

"Researchers have the knowledge and data to make a huge impact, and their voices are credible and influential," the authors wrote. "Advocacy is crucial in global health, where the stakes are life and death. As we move into the next decade of TB vaccines R&D, it is more important than ever for researchers and advocates to work together in securing sufficient support and resources to achieve the ultimate goal of developing new, more effective TB vaccines."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently committed as much as $220 million over the next five years to Aeras, which is half of what the company requires to meet its vaccine development targets through 2016. One of the company's most advanced candidates in the pipeline is the MVA85A vaccine, which was developed in a partnership with Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., and the University of Oxford. The booster vaccine is now in Phase 2b trials, the Washington Business Journal reports.