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Germany starts clinical development of a new tuberculosis vaccine

This press release is also available in German.

To mark World Tuberculosis Day on March 24th, a consortium of business and research centres have launched a programme to develop just such a vaccine. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology (MPIIB) in Berlin, under the direction of Prof. Stefan H. E. Kaufmann, have developed a highly promising vaccine candidate. And now, Vakzine Projekt Management GmbH (VPM) has acquired a worldwide licence for several patents from Max Planck Society. VPM was founded by Germany's Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as part of a national vaccine initiative. In collaboration with MPIIB and the German Rearch Centre for Biotechnology (GBF) VPM will manage the pre-clinical and clinical study program.

"For our new tuberculosis vaccine candidates we are relying on genetically modified variants of the live BCG vaccine that has been in use since 1921," says MPI director, Prof. Dr. Stefan Kaufmann. "The vaccine consists of an attenuated bacteria that is very closely related to the TB pathogen, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. BCG has a proven safety record for many decades, but unfortunately it lacks effectiveness," notes Kaufmann, adding that children can be protected against certain forms of TB only. There is no protection at all against pneumotuberculosis, by far the most common form of the disease.

The protection provided by the presently existing BCG vaccine is assumed to be limited because the BCG bacteria are hidden in the body cells inside so-called phagosomes. The group of Professor Kaufmann, therefore, has inserted a gene coding for the protein listeriolysin. "This protein causes perforation of the phagosomes thus making BCG cells available to the immune system to build up immune protection," says Dr. Leander Grode, now project manager at VPM and co-inventor of the new strain. "Preclinical expe
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Contact: Dr. Sabine Englich
englich@mpiib-berlin.mpg.de
0049 30 28460 142
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
24-Mar-2004


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