2021 Stakeholders Association Meeting
TB Alliance Stakeholders Assess Advances in TB Drug Research
Annual meeting charts the course toward innovative TB therapies for all
Stakeholders and leaders from around the world who are working to combat tuberculosis (TB) met virtually at TB Alliance’s Stakeholders Association Annual Meeting to review updates on the development and delivery of TB therapies. The meeting featured updates and perspectives from researchers, politicians, TB survivors, and patient advocates.
Opening remarks were delivered by Rep. Ami Bera, MD, U.S. Representative for California’s 7th congressional district. Rep. Bera highlighted the impact that COVID-19 has had on the global TB response, warning against losing focus on the TB pandemic. Rep. Bera noted that there are opportunities to use the COVID-19 response to help build global capabilities for other pandemics like TB, and the importance of supporting investments in TB research, saying that “if we dedicated the time and the research to working with the TB Alliance and others, there are dramatic breakthroughs that are coming right down the highway here.”
Eugene Sun, MD, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at TB Alliance then provided updates on the organization’s research portfolio, emphasizing the collaborative nature of TB Alliance’s work, noting that “We don’t do our work alone; we do our work with a large and, frankly, expanding network of partners that are invested in some way in the same mission that we are.” Dr. Sun described advances against difficult-to-treat forms of TB using six-month treatment regimens as well as the status of drug candidates in TB Alliance’s portfolio, including TBI-223, TBA-876, and TBAJ-587.
A panel discussion followed, moderated by Kate O’Brien of We Are TB, who was eager to “celebrate the latest advances in making TB treatment shorter and more simple for the most difficult [forms of] TB."
Panelists included Roilyn Fernandez, a TB survivor from Chicago, who told his story of fighting and overcoming multidrug-resistant TB, including his poor experience with traditional MDR-TB therapy, before accessing new, shorter treatments. “With old DR-TB treatment, I had lots of side effects. My skin was turning yellow-ish, I had fever, I had nausea.” After completing treatment with a six-month regimen, he said that “it was a shorter amount of time for this new treatment and it was so much better than the old treatment. I had no side effects whatsoever. […] I’m grateful that I have passed that period, and I’m really hopeful because of it.”
Nataliia Lytvynenko, MD, Head of the MDR-TB Research Centre, NIPP, relayed her experiences treating DR-TB patients with shorter regimens in Ukraine, the first country to begin an operational research program with a reported success rate of 92.8% to date. Dr. Lytvynenko noted that these results could be a "main step" toward implementation "for all regions of Ukraine.”
Stephanie, Jin-Kyung Jung, Head of the Division of Global Health, ITRC, described South Korea’s support of the LIFT-TB initiative in seven high-burden countries, noting that “we’ve observed quite good progress in the LIFT-TB project in those implementing countries.” LIFT-TB has enrolled patients in six of those countries with the seventh expected this quarter.
Connie Haley, MD, Medical Consultant at the U.S. Southeast National TB Center and University of Florida shared her experiences in administering the all-oral, six-month regimen to more than 100 patients since first approval in 2019. Dr. Haley said that for every patient who has chosen the regimen, "I’m happy to say those patients have done exceptionally well.”
Following the panel discussion, Mel Spigelman, MD, President & CEO of TB Alliance presented an overview of TB Alliance progress to date, focusing on the potential benefits of shorter TB therapies, as well as a vision for universal access to innovations to TB treatment. Dr. Spigelman noted that “what ultimately matters about all the work we do is whether the products are having an impact on the lives of patients, their families, and on the healthcare systems.” Dr. Spigelman also emphasized the critical role of robust collaboration and adequate funding for R&D in overcoming the TB pandemic.
Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of AVAC and SHA President moderated a Q&A among speakers to address topics raised by attendees including: ways to accelerate the research and delivery of innovative TB therapies; the importance of stakeholders and care providers sharing knowledge; and the need to include community voices throughout the research and delivery processes. Warren concluded the event by underscoring the urgency of addressing TB, reminding us TB “was there before COVID-19. It’s still here in the midst of COVID-19 and we need to triple down on the work you described as researchers at TB Alliance, as clinicians, as patients to ensure we go faster, that we center community, and that we lead with equity.”
Please find a full recording of the meeting in English below: