MVA85A TB vaccine undergoes pivotal trials

The MVA85A tuberculosis vaccine, the most clinically advanced new vaccine against the potentially deadly disease, is undergoing two phase IIb proof-of-concept clinical studies to provide important data on the vaccine and the disease.

The first trial started in July 2009 in South Africa and reached full enrollment in April 2011 with close to 3,000 infants participating. The trial, which is taking place at the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, is the largest trial to date for a new TB vaccine candidate. The results will be released in the beginning of 2013.

The second trial is looking at the vaccine's efficacy, immunogenicity and safety among adults living with HIV. The trial began in August.

The only current TB vaccine that is approved for use is the Bacille Calmette-Guerin, which was developed 90 years ago. While it is widely administered, it has not made much impact on the burden of the disease globally. The BCG vaccine is not recommended for people with HIV, making the creation of a new vaccine particularly important. TB is the cause of one in four deaths from HIV.

Helen McShane, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford and a senior clinical fellow for Wellcome Trust, said that the United Kingdom has played a big part in supporting the trials. The funding has been provided by the Wellcome Trust, in partnership with the U.K. Department for International Development, the Oxford Emergent Tuberculosis Consortium and Aeras.

"[The] U.K. government has been a driving force in our work by making the development of a TB vaccine part of its global poverty reduction priorities," McShane said. "We are grateful for their continued partnership. I am pleased to be on the cutting-edge of research in this challenging field, and proud to be from a country that places such an emphasis on indispensable scientific studies such as these. I hope that in my lifetime we will see the discovery of a new TB vaccine that will create a better future for millions of people affected by TB."