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McMaster University Receives $3.6M in Federal Funds to Support Development of New TB Vaccine

by: Christy Groves

Tuberculosis (TB) 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, McMaster’s Dr. Zhou Xing and Dr. Fiona Smaill may be the first in Canada – and amongst the first in the world – to have developed an effective new vaccination strategy.

Dr. Xing and Dr. Smaill, researchers within McMaster’s Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and Immunology Research Centre, and members of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, recently received over $3 million in federal funding through the CIHR Foundation and project grants to further study anti-TB immunity and test their innovative adenovirus-based tuberculosis vaccine strategies.

Their vaccination, which has been in development for over a decade, 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 at the McMaster University Medical Center 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.

Given the current rise in drug-resistant bacteria, innovative therapies such as Xing and Smaill’s are not only vital in the global mitigation of TB, but other devastating infections as well. To find out more about the vaccine’s development and clinical trial, including participation eligibility, visit www.mcmaster-tbstudy.com, or contact research staff at tbstudy@mcmaster.ca.

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