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Federal funds of $3.6M support development of a tuberculosis vaccine

The development of a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine at McMaster University has been boosted by $3.6 million in grants from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.

October 25, 2017

Researchers Dr. Zhou Xing and Dr. Fiona Smaill have received federal funding to study anti-TB immunity and to test their innovative adenovirus-based tuberculosis vaccine which they have been developing over the past decade. Both are professors of the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and members of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s most devastating diseases, resulting in an estimated 1.8 million deaths in 2015 alone. Although TB has infected populations since ancient times, the only currently available vaccination is the 90-year-old Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which is largely ineffective against pulmonary TB. However, Xing and Smaill may be the first in Canada – and amongst the first in the world – to have developed an effective new vaccination strategy.

Their vaccine has been proven safe and well-tolerated by healthy volunteers when given by muscle injection and has been shown to protect animals from TB. The next step is a phase 1, open-label clinical trial that will test the vaccine through the respiratory route of individuals previously vaccinated with BCG.

The researchers will lead the clinical trial in Hamilton to evaluate the safety and potency of a single dose of the vaccine inhaled as a fine mist, or aerosol, into the lungs. Following further development, Smaill and Xing hope to ultimately carry out their improved technology as a booster vaccination to BCG – a new strategy that would strengthen immune protection right at the site of infection.

The technology developed by the McMaster team has already received global interest from CanSino Biologics – an industrial partner of McMaster University in China. Together, the team hopes to have the mist further clinically tested in China, where TB is endemic.

More information about the vaccine’s development and clinical trial, including participation eligibility, visit www.mcmaster-tbstudy.com, or contact research staff at tbstudy@mcmaster.ca.