January 19, 2022
International charitable organisation the Leducq Foundation has bolstered the Australian-led bid to develop a Strep A vaccine, committing USD4.3 million to fund a critical portion of the scientific work needed to bring the vaccine to reality. The private foundation has a mission to improve human health through international efforts to combat cardiovascular and neurovascular disease.
Strep A is one of the top five infectious causes of death and disability worldwide, with related conditions such as rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease (RHD), and skin, throat and bloodstream infections including cellulitis, toxic shock syndrome, sepsis and necrotising fasciitis responsible for more than half a million deaths a year.
Invasive Strep A disease is three times more common than meningococcal disease in Australia, affecting five out of 100,000 people. It is most common in young children and the elderly.
Strep A-related diseases including RHD disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. First Nations Australians are six times more likely than other Australians to get Strep A bloodstream infections, which kill 14 per cent of people affected, while 94 per cent of new cases of rheumatic fever– the precursor to RHD – occur among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In 2019 the Australian Government committed AU$35 million to help accelerate the development of a Strep A vaccine to prevent RHD and other life-threatening conditions caused by the common bacteria.
Selection and development of a lead vaccine candidate is being coordinated by the Australian Strep A Vaccine Initiative (ASAVI), a partnership between the Telethon Kids Institute and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
ASAVI co-director, Telethon Kids Institute Director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, said a Strep A vaccine was urgently needed.
“A safe and effective Strep A vaccine is an important and practical solution for disease control which will do so much to not only close the gap in Indigenous health in Australia but ease the burden of diseases caused by Strep A globally, particularly in developing countries,” Professor Carapetis said.
However, he said, successful vaccine development required commitment and enormous financial investment.
The $35 million provided by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund has given us a catalytic boost, but the reality is a lot more funding is needed to get the point where we can trial and licence a vaccine.
“That’s why we are so grateful for the contribution of organisations like the Leducq Foundation. With Leducq’s generous support, we will be able to undertake a critical element of the science needed to get the vaccine to clinical trial stage.
“Specifically, the funding will allow us to develop robust clinical assays which enable us to accurately measure and assess the vaccine’s potency in volunteers. The validation data gained from these assays represents a painstaking but vital step to advance development of this vaccine.”
Leducq Foundation Chief Science Officer David Milan said the Foundation was enthusiastic about the project.
“We are very pleased to support the ASAVI group A strep vaccine initiative, which brings together an outstanding team and considerable resources to address the significant suffering and death associated with group A strep infection,” Dr Milan said.
Establishing robust clinical immune assays will not only aid ASAVI in their vaccine development program, but may also be of importance for basic research in strep infection, as well as the development of other Strep A vaccines.
“The Leducq Foundation is committed to fighting RHD worldwide under its mission to improve human health through international efforts to combat cardiovascular disease and stroke.”
As part of the project, ASAVI will partner with the Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium (SAVAC), hosted at the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) – an international organisation with the mission to discover, develop, and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for global health – to develop an integrated product development plan to provide a blueprint for the successful development of Strep A vaccines.
Dr Jerome Kim, Director General of IVI, said that for a disease that claimed more than 500,000 million lives every year, Strep A was critically overdue for widespread awareness and advocacy, as well as committed funding and decisive action to accelerate vaccine research and development.
“We’re grateful for the Leducq Foundation’s support and ASAVI’s partnership to build the pathway toward an urgently needed vaccine solution for Strep A,” Dr Kim said.
About Leducq Foundation
Leducq Foundation is an international grant-making organisation with a mission to improve human health through international efforts to combat cardiovascular disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease and stroke remain a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, in spite of recent advances in treatment. The Leducq Foundation was created with the idea that the battle against cardiovascular and stroke should be waged at the international level. By forging scientific alliances that transcend national borders and educating young researchers who thrive in an international context, we hope to promote innovation in cardiovascular and stroke research and develop long term collaborative relationships that will allow us ultimately to change the way patients with cardiovascular and neurovascular disease are diagnosed and treated.
About the International Vaccine Institute (IVI)
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is a nonprofit inter-governmental organization established in 1997 at the initiative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). IVI has 36 countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) on its treaty, including the Republic of Korea, Sweden, India, and Finland as state funders. Our mandate is to make vaccines available and accessible for the world’s most vulnerable people. We focus on infectious diseases of global health importance such as cholera, typhoid, shigella, salmonella, schistosomiasis, chikungunya, group A strep, Hepatitis A, HPV, TB, HIV, MERS, COVID-19, as well as antimicrobial resistance.
The Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium (SAVAC) was formed with the mission to accelerate and implement safe, effective, and affordable vaccines against Group A Streptococcus (Strep A). The availability and use of a vaccine would save countless lives, and SAVAC aims to enact and enable the research and development roadmap to prevent Strep A. SAVAC is led by an Executive Committee of infectious disease and vaccine specialists with funding support from the Wellcome Trust.
Read the media release here: Shot in the arm for Strep A vaccine bid (telethonkids.org.au)