$1.5m funding will further research towards TB vaccine

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The VALIDATE Network has received a $1.5m funding boost to support its development of a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have donated $1.5m to the Oxford-run VALIDATE Network, that prioritises the development of an effective TB vaccine. As well as aiding this vaccine work, the research will also support fellowships, grants, and training for VALIDATE Network TB researchers, particularly female researchers, early-career researchers, and researchers in low- and middle-income countries.

Global health crisis

TB is a major global health threat, with the World Health Organization estimating that around one quarter of the world’s population is infected with TB bacteria. Although only a small number of infected people will become sick, TB remains one of the top ten global causes of death, killing around 1.4 million people per year.

The VALIDATE Network – led by Professor Helen McShane from the University of Oxford, Professor Helen Fletcher from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Professor Samantha Sampson from the University of Stellenbosch – has a strong focus on career development for its members, alongside the scientific aims of vaccine development.

With around 450 members in 68 countries, the global network is an engaged and interactive community, offering both scientific opportunity and career support for its members, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. By encouraging cross-pathogen, cross-continent, cross-discipline, and cross-species collaborations alongside supporting member’s development, the Network hopes to generate new ideas, share information, and ultimately develop effective vaccines quicker and easier in the future.

The funding will also enhance the Network’s partnership with the Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery (CTVD), an international network of scientists dedicated to fostering innovation, cooperation, and collaboration in the TB vaccine space, opening up further opportunities for learning, training and discovery.

Career development

Professor Helen McShane, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and Director of VALIDATE, said: “We are delighted that the Gates Foundation has recognised the value of the VALIDATE Network that we have established, both scientifically and to support career development. We look forward to working with the Foundation to continue to support career development, with a shared focus particularly on women and low- and middle-income setting researchers.”

Professor Samantha Sampson, Principal Investigator in Mycobacteriology at the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and Co-Director on the Gates Foundation funding, said: “I am very excited about this opportunity to take a more active role in the VALIDATE Network. I am also very grateful for the support from the Gates Foundation, which will allow us to build on the already strong network to further TB vaccine development through supporting research, collaboration, and capacity development.”

Further work

While the current Gates Foundation funding focuses on the VALIDATE Network’s TB vaccine work, the Network is working on vaccine candidates for a range of intracellular neglected pathogens, including leishmaniasis, melioidosis, and leprosy. The VALIDATE Network plans to secure matching funding from other sources for their other research priorities in the future.

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