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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Harvard: New research center aims to advance research toward a vaccine for TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major health problem worldwide. More than 1.5 million people died from it last year, making it the leading infectious killer on the planet. Another 10 million people fell ill with the disease, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a contagious airborne bacterium that can spread from person to person.

To date, vaccination has failed to stop the epidemic. The existing TB vaccine, known as BCG (for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) protects babies against TB meningitis, but in its current form, BCG does not protect adults against lung disease, which is how the infection is spread. An effective vaccine for M. tuberculosis would save countless lives, but there are many technical and scientific obstacles and progress has been slow.

In order to advance the understanding of protective immune responses against M. tuberculosis and the development of an effective vaccine, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has established three new research centers called “Immune Mechanisms of Protection Against Mycobacterium tuberculosis(IMPAc-TB) Centers.”  The new contract awards, to which the NIH has committed $30 million in first-year funding, will provide up to seven years of support.

The NIH recently announced that the contract for one of these centers was awarded to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Research at this center will be led by Dr. Sarah Fortune, John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. JoAnne Flynn, professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Dr. Henry Boom, professor at Case Western Reserve University.

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