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"We cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB. TB is too often a death sentence for people with AIDS."

Nelson Mandela, July 2004

News

SATVI Director departs from UCT to focus on global TB Strategy at Bill Gates Foundation

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Group Staff Picture

Handover Picune 2014

Professor Willem Hanekom, who has been with the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) for the past eight years, recently said his farewells to staff, friends and colleagues at the University of Cape Town, before taking up a key position at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he will be focusing on the development of a global policy for TB vaccine development.

Willem who has been appointed Deputy Director, Program lead for TB Vaccines, at the Seattle based Bill Gates Foundation, was the Director of SATVI since 2011 and has vast expertise in clinical trials involving protective host responses to TB and has contributed to more than 120 publications. Willem is past president of the Federation of African Immunological Societies, and has served on multiple international advisory committees in TB vaccine development and translational immunology.

According to Professor Mark Hatherill, Director of SATVI, who spoke at his farewell function, “Willem is respected by international scientists and the new position he assumes at the Gates Foundation provides an opportunity for him to direct and give input into TB vaccine research at a global level. Within the scientific community everyone is aware of Willem’s association with SATVI, the work that SATVI does and therefore he would play an important role as brand ambassador for SATVI within the global TB vaccine research community”.

Dr Zameer Brey, SATVI Chief Operating Officer, thanked and applauded Professor Hanekom for his contribution on many levels. “Willem is an excellent teacher, mentor and role model. He has an inspirational leadership style and has a way of bringing out the best in people working with him. At an organisational level, Willem was instrumental in building a legacy for SATVI underpinned by a clear strategy, a focus on systems for long term sustainability and the recognition that people are core to any organisational success. Finally, his contribution to the TB vaccine world and the fight against TB is evidenced by his phenomenal publication record, successful grant proposals and by the multiple advisory groups he provides council to globally.”

Mrs Ashley Veldsman, Regulatory Specialist at SATVI, told us that whilst it was sad to see him go, it was in effect an accolade and recognition of the calibre of people and research which SATVI and UCT delivers and that his departure would serve as an important North-South collaboration, not just to showcase what SATVI is capable of, but also what the African continent can offer the world”.

In his address Professor Hanekom, told SATVI staff he finally decided to join the Foundation when, as researcher, faced with the challenge of a watershed in tuberculosis research at global level, he realised that there is a need for a rethink on how we work together internationally, the need for developing new scientific approaches, new ways of conducting clinical trials; and that he saw the opportunity to join the Gates Foundation to work on a global strategy towards eradicating TB through the development of a vaccine. According to him it would take two to three years to develop and start and implement such a strategy.

He commended SATVI staff that there was no other group as good as SATVI in getting research done, completing the research and producing results.

   

SATVI Appoints New Director

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It is my great pleasure to announce the appointment of SATVI's new Director! Congratulations to Associate Professor Mark Hatherill on his appointment!!!

There has been a formal process which involved several stakeholders at the University to appoint our new Director. Mark will be formally inaugurated at an upcoming staff meeting but we would like to thank Professor Mizrahi and Professor Hussey for their support during this transition.

We would like to thank Willem for building a solid foundation at SATVI during his tenure and developing a clear strategy. We are really excited about the next chapter at SATVI under Mark's Leadership.

We are ALL looking forward to working with Mark in achieving our vision of 'A World without TB'.

Kind Regards
Zameer on behalf of Exco

   

Applications for a postdoctoral fellowship in systems immunology

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We are inviting applications for a postdoctoral fellowship in systems immunology to conduct research on a large project aimed at identifying and validating immune correlates of risk of TB in collaboration with global leaders in systems biology at Seattle Biomedical Research Institute.

For more information click here

   

Petition SADC nations to prioritize TB R&D for new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines

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Join us and Aeras in asking SADC nations to prioritize TB R&D for new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines in the Declaration on TB in the Mining Sector.

http://aeras.org/petition

   

Applications for masters or doctoral students

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We are inviting applications for masters or doctoral students to work on clinical immunology of tuberculosis projects.

For more information click here

   

TB vaccine research drama to premiere at Worcester high schools

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A new drama based on a comic book, Carina’s Choice, developed by SATVI to inform the community of the Worcester region about TB vaccine clinical research in an entertaining and understandable way, will be performed at at least eight high schools in the Worcester area.

The idea evolved from a comic book, Carina’s Choice, which was developed in 2010 by Linda Rohda, then communications manager for SATVI, to inform the community of the Worcester region in which they conduct their work about TB vaccine clinical research in an entertaining and understandable way. Development of the comic was supported by a grant from the WHO Global Patnership to Stop TB, and received input from the Community Advisory Board, staff members and trial participants to ensure that the language used was acceptable and understandable and that the scientific facts were correct. A local school, Worcester Senior Secondary, dramatised the comic and performed it once to a small audience with very positive feedback.

Dr Michele Tameris of SATVI received an International Engagement grant from Wellcome Trust to evaluate the use of drama to improve adolescents’ insight into tuberculosis (TB) and TB vaccine development, clinical research and their rights and responsibilities as a trial participant, by building on these projects’ success and rolling out a refined version of the production to the high schools in the Worcester area .

Since May 2013 Dr Veronica Baxter and senior students from UCT Drama School have spent weekends, public holidays and their vacation time in Worcester enthusiastically working with Mrs Natasha Africa of Worcester Senior Secondary (WSS) and a group of her drama learners. The UCT students, with much input from the increasingly motivated and inspired group of learners, have developed the script, composed songs and raps, designed costumes and sets and worked with the young performers to improve their acting skills and knowledge.

Carina’s Choice will be performed at at least eight high schools in the Worcester area, reaching a possible 10 000 adolescents in the third quarter of 2013. The effectiveness of drama as a tool will be evaluated by using a pre- and post-intervention knowledge survey completed by all learners attending the performances. This evaluation will be led by an experienced social scientist, Amber Abrams.

   

SATVI investigators awarded new grant to explore how our bodies fight TB

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The South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) of the University of Cape Town (UCT) is pleased to announce a new research grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The research project, the third SATVI study to be funded by the Gates Foundation, aims to gain new knowledge about how humans protect themselves against tuberculosis (TB).

TB is an infectious lung disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. About half a million new cases of TB disease occur in South Africa every year. World wide, 1.4 million people die from TB each year. We need new vaccines to prevent people from getting the disease, better tools to identify those who have TB and new drugs to treat those who are sick. Progress toward these interventions requires research to understand how our bodies fight TB. This is the goal of this newly funded project.

Dr Thomas Scriba, Deputy Director of Immunology at SATVI, will lead the project, which is a collaborative effort between SATVI at the University of Cape Town, and investigators at Benaroya Research Institute, La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, New York University, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and Stanford University.

Dr Scriba commented, "We are thrilled to be awarded this grant. We have assembled an outstanding team of people to address a very significant question using cutting-edge and the most modern scientific approaches."
Valued at ZAR 33.2 million ($3.7 million), the project aims to discover which components of the TB bacterium are targeted by our body's T cells, which are responsible for orchestrating the many different cells of our immune system to effectively fight against infections. This information about the human immune response will inform how we design better vaccines against TB in the future.

This project complements and builds on two others – led by Prof. Willem Hanekom, Director of SATVI – aimed at identifying ways to predict who may develop TB. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has already contributed more than ZAR90 million ($10.7 million) toward funding of these projects. "This important study provides a unique and exciting opportunity to gain a better understanding of how we protect ourselves against TB," said Prof Hanekom.

   

Results from Historic Phase IIb Clinical Trial for TB Vaccine Candidate MVA85A, performed at SATVI, Published in The Lancet

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Results from a Phase IIb clinical trial, which was competed at the SATVI Clinical Field Site, were published in The Lancet on 4 February 2013. The trial evaluated the safety and efficacy of MVA85A in preventing tuberculosis (TB) in infants. MVA85A is a TB vaccine candidate designed to boost immune responses already primed by the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, the currently licensed and widely used TB vaccine. The results show that:

 

-       MVA85A was generally well tolerated, meeting the study’s primary objective of safety

-       MVA85A did not provide statistically-significant protection in preventing TB disease in infants previously vaccinated with BCG

 

Data show that a single dose of MVA85A is not sufficient to confer statistically significant protection against TB disease or infection in infants who had been vaccinated at birth with BCG. There were 32 cases of TB disease in the infants that received BCG + MVA85A compared with 39 cases of disease among those receiving BCG + placebo. Non-significant vaccine efficacy was measured at 17.3% (95% CI -31.9% to 48.2%) at study completion. The vaccine candidate also did not provide statistically significant protection from infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes TB, which was a secondary efficacy endpoint.

To read more, click here.

To read the abstract of the paper, click here.

To read a commentary in The Lancet about the study, click here.

   

Longitudinal Changes in CD4 T Cell Memory Responses Induced by BCG Vaccination of Newborns

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New findings from SATVI researchers, published online in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, provide a detailed account of the immune response induced by BCG vaccination of newborn babies. The BCG vaccine, which was developed roughly a century ago, is the most commonly given vaccine globally. However, until now, it was not known how the T cell response to BCG develops during the first year of life.

The results show that the BCG-induced T cell response peaks between 6 and 10 weeks of age. Thereafter this immune response slowly wanes and establishes a memory response.

These findings provide critical information for new vaccination strategies against TB. Such strategies will most likely involve administration of a second, different (or heterologous) TB vaccine a few weeks or months after BCG, to boost or modify the BCG-induced immune response. Our study results suggest that boosting of the BCG-primed T cell response may be best after 14 weeks of age, once an established memory response has developed.

For more detail on the study, click here to access the manuscript abstract.

   

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Epidemiology

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The South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI) performs cutting-edge clinical, epidemiological and immunological research in TB pathogenesis and vaccine development. We are inviting applications for a postdoctoral fellowship within our clinical research team, to work on a project addressing the role of age and gender in risk for TB infection and disease during adolescence.To download the posting, click here.