How to boost R&D for TB control
The global elimination of tuberculosis (TB) needs improved and widespread use of existing technologies, and development of revolutionary new tools — a goal that will become realistic only by accelerating basic, applied and operational research, write Christian Lienhardt and colleagues of the Stop TB Partnership.
To pave the way towards this goal, the Stop TB Partnership and the WHO Stop TB Department have launched a strategic plan — the TB Research Movement — for boosting research and innovation. The authors say the plan provides a framework to co-ordinate global research needs and make efficient use of the limited funding from a shortfall expected in the next five years.
Progress in the control of TB remains modest despite a significant increase in funding and advances in diagnostics, drugs and vaccines over recent years. The rate of new TB cases has decreased gradually since 2004, but the decline is too slow to meet the goal of elimination by 2050.
The biggest funding gaps are in research and development of new drugs and new diagnostics, say Lienhardt and colleagues. For example, high priorities identified by the TB Research Movement plan are a point of care diagnostic tool for all forms of TB, including testing for drug resistant forms of the disease.
There is also need to develop shorter treatment plans and more effective vaccines for mass immunisation and prevention. And to improve TB control with existing technologies, research will be needed to guide the scale-up and uptake of innovations.
The authors suggest an increase in the number and diversity of donors to fund research according to global needs, and call for greater contributions from countries with a high TB burden, including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).