Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Provide Sabin Vaccine Institute with $12 Million to Fund Multiple Phase 1 Clinical Trials and Further Product Development for Human Hookworm Vaccine

Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) today announced receipt of a two-year, $12 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue development of a vaccine to prevent human hookworm infection, a parasitic disease that affects 600 million people worldwide.

Hookworm infection, most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America, is a significant contributor to the global burden of iron-deficiency anemia that disproportionately affects children and women of reproductive age.

The infection results in approximately 65,000 deaths and the loss of up to 22 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs) annually. Hookworm is one of the seven most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which together carry a greater health burden than malaria and tuberculosis and rival that of HIV/AIDS.

“There is a significant need for greater funding to develop affordable vaccines that address the needs of the world’s poor,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, President of Sabin. “The Gates Foundation – together with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Brazilian Ministry of Health – is demonstrating a real commitment to Sabin’s goal of breaking the cycle of poverty for millions of people by providing them with accessible and affordable NTD vaccines.”

Because hookworm infection occurs exclusively among the world’s most impoverished populations and there is no traditional developed market for a vaccine, the hookworm vaccine is being developed through an international product development partnership (PDP) led by the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Members of the PDP include Fundação Oswaldo Cruz and Instituto Butantan in Brazil, James Cook University in Australia, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, The George Washington University, University of Kansas and the National Institute of Parasite Diseases, Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other key collaborating organizations.

The new funding coincides with a major expansion of Sabin’s vaccine development efforts. Sabin recently announced a new partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to build a new center in Houston dedicated to developing vaccines for diseases of poverty. Sabin will transfer its vaccine operations to new laboratories at Texas Children’s Hospital in September and will continue working with existing and new partners. As part of the move, Dr. Hotez also will become the founding dean of a new national school of tropical medicine at BCM that will train a new generation of medical practitioners focused on diseases of poverty.

The focus on funding a hookworm vaccine has significant implications for global maternal and child health. Chronic hookworm infection in children contributes to physical and intellectual impairment, learning difficulties and poor school performance, while iron-deficiency anemia in women of reproductive age reduces their health and economic potential.

Currently, the best tool available to control hookworm infection is the use of mass drug administration with one of two benzimidazole anthelminthic drugs (albendazole or mebendazole). However, the efficacy of existing treatments has the potential to diminish over time, which is a major driver for the development of a vaccine to prevent hookworm infections.

The hookworm vaccine under development is a recombinant protein-based vaccine for the prevention of disease caused by the hookworm species Necator americanus, which accounts for 85% of hookworm cases throughout the world.

“The PDP will initiate two Phase 1 clinical trials of new hookworm vaccine candidates in Brazil during the next 12 months,” said Dr. David Diemert, Director of Clinical Trials at Sabin. “This funding will sustain development of a vaccine with the potential to make a significant positive impact in impoverished communities around the world.”

About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world’s most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat, and eliminate vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines, and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information, please visit www.sabin.org.

Contact: Richard Hatzfeld, 202-842-8467, Richard.hatzfeld@sabin.org

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