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IPBS is a partner in two new Horizon Europe-funded collaborative projects to accelerate the fight against tuberculosis

The ITHEMYC and TBVAC-HORIZON projects have been selected for funding by the European Commission's Horizon Europe program (Pillar 2 - Health Cluster) for "Tackling diseases and reducing disease burden". At IPBS-Toulouse1, scientists from the laboratories of Drs. O. Neyrolles, E. Meunier, J. Nigou and J.-P. Girard, including Prof. Denis Hudrisier and Drs. Céline Cougoule, Martine Gilleron and Emma Lefrançais, are participating in these projects, which aim to reduce the burden of tuberculosis by developing new prevention and treatment strategies. The two projects have a total funding of nearly 16 million euros and will run for four years.

 

Infectious diseases, including antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections, remain a major threat to health and health security in the EU and globally. The availability of more effective, accessible and affordable vaccines would be the most cost-effective preventive measure against the health threat of epidemics and antimicrobial resistant pathogens. Vaccines against diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, neglected tropical diseases, hepatitis C, and waterborne diseases are essential to achieving WHO's goals of controlling the spread of infectious diseases. The first generation of vaccines against some of these pathogens has proven to be suboptimal and not effective enough to protect the population. The surface antigen composition of many viruses with pandemic potential is variable, and new technologies are needed to develop effective vaccines against each new variant efficiently and in a short time frame. To ensure that more effective, accessible, and affordable vaccines against all major infectious diseases become a reality, it is essential to maintain a diverse and modernized vaccine development pipeline. Among these diseases, TB remains one of the most devastating infectious diseases in the world, killing more than 4,000 people per day, or 1.5 million deaths per year.

 

The length of TB treatment and numerous side effects contribute to poor adherence to treatment and the development of antibiotic-resistant strains. Multidrug resistance and widespread drug resistance - which account for up to 20% of new cases in the WHO European Region - are exacerbating the TB epidemic. The only licensed vaccine, the live attenuated Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, is partially effective, but it prevents meningeal TB and saves the lives of many children. However, BCG does not provide consistent protection against pulmonary TB in adolescents and adults. There is an urgent need for new treatment and vaccine modalities to better prevent TB and shorten treatment duration, improve outcomes, and control the emergence of drug-resistant TB.

 

The ITHEMYC and TBVAC-HORIZON projects will contribute to a better understanding TB disease and reduce its burden.

 

The ITHEMYC project (Novel immunotherapies for tuberculosis and other mycobacterial diseases) is granted under the topic “Preclinical development of the next generation of immunotherapies for diseases or disorders with unmet medical needs” (HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-06-02-two-stage).

ITHEMYC is coordinated by the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) and involves 11 academic and private partners from 7 European countries (NL, ES, FR, IT) or associated countries (IL, UK, US), including two product development partnerships (TBVI and TB-Alliance) and one industrial partner (GSK). This collaborative project aims to develop and preclinically validate innovative adjuvant immunotherapies against TB by leveraging a promising pipeline and recent developments in the field. It will combine current and novel antibiotic regimens with new immunotherapies through a series of relevant in vitro, in vivo and in silicomodels. ITHEMYC will generate robust and refined knowledge to increase understanding and interest in the emerging concept of adjuvant immunotherapy for TB. The new combined interventions are expected to improve TB cure rates, reduce the duration and toxicity of current regimens, and decrease relapse rates.

 

The TBVAC-HORIZON project (Improving understanding of lung immunity in tuberculosis to establish a diverse, innovative TB vaccine pipeline targeting mucosal immunity) is granted under the topic Vaccines 2.0 - developing the next generation of vaccines” (HORIZON-HLTH-2022-DISEASE-06-03-two-stage).

Involving 19 academic and private partners from 8 European countries (NL, DK, ES, FR, DE, IT) or associated countries (CH, UK), TBVAC-HORIZON is coordinated by TBVI. By deciphering the immune responses in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected lung, it will improve our understanding and develop tools related to immune protection in the lung, the main site of TB infection. This knowledge will be used to develop mucosal strategies that can be translated into clinical evaluation and eventually implemented. It will support the development of the next generation of TB vaccines, with the ultimate goal of accelerating the availability of affordable, accessible and more effective TB vaccines. The interlocking activities of this consortium will consolidate Europe's leading role in TB vaccine research and innovation.

 

1The IPBS-Toulouse is a joint CNRS/University of Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier research unit.