What does it take to move research from recognition of need to realization? Increasingly, in a funding landscape that has seen an actual decline in dollars to develop new tools for tuberculosis along with other diseases, the answer has been public-private partnerships. The most recent prominent example is the Global Health Innovative Technology — GHIT — Fund, which pools resources from the government of Japan, five Japanese pharmaceutical companies, the United Nations Development Program and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Flexing what a press release calls “Japan’s R & D” muscle with, so far, $100 million, theTokyo-based fund announced a series of grants to finance new approaches to drugs and vaccines against tuberculosis, malaria, and the parasite-caused Chagas disease. Those, on the list of the 20 diseases, including HIV, targeted by the fund, have in common is being ” key poverty-exacerbating diseases prevalent in developing countries,” an October Lancet Commentary from fund director BT Slingsby and chair Kiyoshi Kurokawa says.
The fund’s just announced grants include $720,000 in funding towards a new approach to a tuberculosis vaccine aiming to prevent the bacteria from entering the lungs, to be developed with the Washington, DC- based Aeras. Aeras, in the meantime also, is working with the Statens Serum Institut and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative on a clinical trial for a TB vaccine candidate intended to protect people, particularly those infected with tuberculosis, from developing active TB disease.
Perhaps all of these are signs that approaches to diseases really can evolve more quickly than the diseases themselves. Stay tuned — GHIT, in partnership with the Japan Society and the New York Academy of Sciences is hosting a New York event tonight, with a title that spells out the ambition of their approach: Unlocking the Secret of Global Health Victories, Engaging New Partners to Save Lives, with speakers that will include former UNAIDS head Peter Piot, former UNICEF director Ann Veneman, TB Alliance CEO Mel Spigelman, along with Kurokawa and Slingsby.