Thole,director, TBVI , The Netherlands
Tuberculosis or TB is the oldest disease known to science. Today, it is
one of the biggest killers affecting almost two billion people. Far
from being a disease of the past, around one-third of the
earth’s population is infected, resulting in over nine
million new cases and close to two million deaths annually.
In 2007, Hannu Laang and Ole Olesen of the European Commission were the
first to suggest the establishment of a separate entity to fund
research for new vaccines to conquer tuberculosis. Less than a year
later, on March 5, 2008, Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) was
European-based foundation facilitating development of safer and more
effective vaccines against tuberculosis.
TBVI is based in the Dutch city of Lelystad and is headed by Dr Jelle
Thole, its director since launch. Dr Thole in an interview with
BioSpectrum shares his thoughts on various issues such as
funding and development partners.
are the major initiatives taken by TBVI to curb TB in the Asian
TBVI is developing vaccines that are useful to people all over the
world and are not focusing on specific vaccines for Asia. There is no
have specific vaccine for Asia because the TB-related issues are common
in nature. The current live vaccine that we use is Bacillus
Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and this protects children up to five
years from meningitis. What we are trying to do now is to develop
vaccines that boost the second vaccination of BCG and improve the
performance in adult population.
We are also supporting a number of partnerships that develop these
kinds of vaccines. The other type of vaccines that we are developing is
the BCG replacement vaccine that will be used in children. BCG should
offer long-term protection, however, it is entirely safe when it is
used in HIV positive
are your major partners and how are those
partnerships fulfilling your needs?
We work with over 40 research partners in Europe, Africa, Asia and
South-America and we have a variety of joint projects with them. We are
supported by European Commission, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
FIT-BIOTECH and Institute Merieux. We aim for a portfolio of five
programs with a budget of 200 million (Rs 1,302 crore) for the coming
10 years; in our first year of existence in 2009 we have raised about
15 million (Rs 97.69 crore).
do you operate internationally?
European Commission has a big project called the International project
this project 35 partners work together. They are bound by a contract
and have specific deliverables deadlines. Some of them work together
and others work together in specific areas. Everybody, each year or
twice a year gets exposed to the consortium and gets to know what is
happening in the consortium. This brings them together and they can
network with each others.
there been a decline or increase in the number of TB cases globally?
The TB Report is always two years late, so the report released in 2009
deals with cases of 2007 and the one coming in 2010 will be based on
2008 results. In 2007, there has been a slight decline of one percent
in the number of new instances globally. This is very important because
this might be a turning point because there has been an increase of 10
percent in the last 10 years. However, we need to wait and watch how
much the infections decrease. A lot of countries have adopted Directly
Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) strategy and they are treating
positive cases. The partnership aims to detect 70 percent of these
cases, treat 85 percent of them and we reach that target.
Sanjeev Jain in Bangalore