New TB Vaccine Quest Afrigen’s Impactful Lessons in mRNA Technology

a New TB Vaccine’S Insights from Afrigen Biologics

In an effort to combat the surge in tuberculosis (TB) cases, which reached a three-decade high last year, experts at the World Conference on Lung Health emphasized the need for $5 billion annually over the next four years for TB vaccine research. This global initiative, supported by UN member states, including South Africa, aims to accelerate the development of a new vaccine to address the rising TB challenges.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Professor Petro Terblanche, managing director Afrigen Biologics and Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir pictured during a visit to Afrigen Formulation Facilities, on the first day of a mission to South Africa of the Belgian cooperation and development minister, in Cape Town, South-Africa, Friday 11 February 2022. The focus of this mission is the importance of equitable access to COVID vaccines worldwide and to take note of a number of initiatives that are being developed around this topic in South Africa. Belgium supports, through the World Health Organization (WHO), a local COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub. BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

Highlighting the urgency, the Global TB Report revealed a substantial increase in new TB cases, providing a compelling reason to expedite the search for a new vaccine. The World Health Organization’s analysis suggests that even a moderately effective vaccine, such as the M72/AS01E candidate, could prevent millions from contracting TB over the next 25 years.

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Currently, the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine is the primary defense against TB, boasting a 75% efficacy rate. However, its limitation lies in its application to children without the TB germ, leaving adults and teens vulnerable, as they constitute the majority of TB cases globally.

TB vaccine

Addressing this critical need, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust have pledged over R10 billion to facilitate clinical trials of the promising M72/AS01E candidate. This collaborative effort aims to diversify vaccine options, crucial for protecting different population groups.

A Cape Town-based pharmaceutical start-up, Afrigen Biologics, has emerged as a key player in the race for a new TB vaccine. Leveraging mRNA technology, the company, led by Petro Terblanche, is building on its experience in developing an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.

Terblanche shared valuable lessons learned during the two-year journey

  1. Adaptability is key. Overcoming intellectual property challenges and navigating legal hurdles in developing a new vaccine underscore the importance of being flexible and finding alternatives.
  2. Network of Experts: Building a strong support system with experts from various fields, both locally and internationally, proved instrumental in Afrigen’s success. Collaboration with research institutes and biotech companies facilitated knowledge exchange.
  3. Expect the Unexpected: Afrigen faced unexpected challenges when the initial plan for tech transfer fell through. Despite setbacks, the company successfully navigated the uncharted territory of developing a vaccine from scratch.
  4. Embrace Innovation: Drawing inspiration from successful collaborations like Pfizer and BioNTech, Afrigen embraced innovation, developing a vaccine candidate in a relatively short timeframe. This approach required venturing into unknown territory and obtaining the necessary certifications.
  5. Financial Management: Securing funding is crucial, but effective financial management is equally vital. Afrigen learned to navigate unexpected changes and challenges while staying within budget, emphasizing the importance of financial prudence.
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.In conclusion, Afrigen’s journey highlights the complexities of TB vaccine development, emphasizing adaptability, collaboration, and financial prudence. Their innovative approach, based on mRNA technology, offers valuable insights for researchers and policymakers striving to address global health challenges. As we navigate the future of TB prevention, Afrigen’s commitment to overcoming obstacles underscores the importance of a multifaceted and collaborative approach in the pursuit of groundbreaking vaccines.

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