Bill Gates visit Zaragoza TB vaccine development team
8 March 2012
The University of Zaragoza team working on the development of
MTBVAC, a new vaccine against tuberculosis (TB) was visited by Bill
Gates and his wife on 21 February.
Mr Gates showed great interest in the scientific background of
MTBVAC, the most advanced vaccine based on attenuation of
MTBVAC is seen as a replacement for the current BCG vaccine and
might be able to protect millions of people from getting
tuberculosis. BCG is currently the only available vaccine against TB
and unfortunately provides very limited protection. Without new
vaccines TB cannot be eliminated.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is
supporting the development of new vaccines against poverty-related
diseases, including malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. During his visit
in Madrid, he spoke with Carlos Martin’s team about the details of
MTBVAC. MTBVAC is designed to replace the current BCG vaccine and is
the first candidate to fulfil the Geneva consensus requirements for
progressing live mycobacterial vaccines to clinical evaluation.
The new vaccine
The new candidate MTBVAC is based on the genetic attenuation of M. tuberculosis resulting in the removal of two independent
virulence genes fadD26 and phoP. The phoP gene was greatly expressed
in an epidemic strain responsible for a TB outbreak in HIV-infected
patients with high mortality rate.
After 10 years of proof-of-concept studies in the relevant animal
models, the Spanish biopharmaceutical company BIOFABRI, has
developed MTBVAC under Good Manufacturing Practices with the aim to
proceed to first-in-human clinical evaluation.
“This achievement was possible with the scientific advice of
external expert advisors in the field of vaccine development which
were facilitated through the European Tuberculosis Vaccine
Initiative (TBVI),” says Carlos Martin.
“In the last four years, BIOFABRI and University of Zaragoza,
under the leadership of TBVI, have worked closely to develop MTBVAC
to meet regulatory requirements to allow entry in Phase I clinical
trials. The final vaccine lots have been successfully produced and
characterized and MTBVAC is expected to begin clinical evaluation
Dr Carlos Martin and his team from the
University of Zaragoza were proud to inform Bill Gates about the
latest developments in their lab. From left to right: Dessi Marinova,
Bill Gates, Carlos Martin, Nacho Aguilo and Jesus Gonzalo
What Bill said
Bill Gates showed great interest and curiosity in the research
and development of MTBVAC of the group of the University of
Zaragoza. In the Spanish media, Bill Gates said to “El Pais” that
the Spanish vaccine against tuberculosis is “fantastic”.
Bill and Melinda Gates foundation will stay attentive in the
results of the Phase I evaluation of MTBVAC that will help in the
future evaluation of the vaccine’s efficacy in endemic countries.
Eradication of tuberculosis will be possible with a universal
vaccine effective in preventing of pulmonary tuberculosis
responsible for disease transmission.
The progress of the Spanish vaccine project MTBVAC was made
possible with continuous European and National funds including Genoma