Brussels, 13 Nov 2002
Further research into immunology and more clinical trials in developing countries are both necessary if Europe is to tackle communicable diseases, said speakers on the second day of the Sixth Framework Programme launch conference in Brussels on 12 November.
Clinical trials must be carried out in developing countries because that is where communicable diseases are most prevalent, said Antoni Trilla from Barcelona's hospital clinic, who is also a participant in the European and developing countries clinical trials platform (EDCTP). Communicable diseases constitute 60 per cent of the disease burden of developing countries, the most fatal being AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria.
Clinical trials in a variety of locations are also necessary because one single vaccine would not necessarily be successful in all situations or geographical areas, agreed Dr Trilla and Brigit Giquel from the Pasteur Institute in France.
The EDCTP was proposed by the Commission in August 2002 and aims to bring together EU Member States plus Norway, developing countries and industry in a joint effort to combat poverty related diseases. The 200 million euro pledged by the Commission will be matched by 200 million euro from participating countries' national clinical research programmes and 200 million euro from other donors and industry. Participants in the EDCTP plan to implement the platform using Article 169 under the Sixth Framework Programme, which would see the coordination of national research programmes. This would be the first time the provision will have been used.
'We need to begin trials first in Europe, then in developing countries. Vaccines must protect people all over the world, and there are different genetic make-ups all over the world,' said Dr Giquel.
Dr Giquel is part of an EU funded consortium seeking to develop a TB vaccine for adults. Some 38 laboratories from 12 European countries are involved in the project. 'Thanks to the studies we have two vaccine candidates to be tested,' she said.
Some 34 laboratories from eight countries are involved in the EU funded EuroVac cluster, which is carrying out head-to-head comparisons of possible AIDS vaccines. Within the cluster are a number of networks, focusing on issues such as immunology, clinical trials and neutralisation. By the end of 2002, pre-clinical testing of vaccine conditions will have been carried out, and in spring 2003, clinical trials will begin, explained Peter Liljeström from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
The issues raised by the speakers show 'the direction we want to have under the first priority in FP6,' said Octavi Quintana-Trias from the Commission's Research DG, concluding the session.