WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 11, 2015 – The Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP) has joined The Onchocerciasis Vaccine for Africa (TOVA) Initiative, which was established this year to develop and test a vaccine for onchocerciasis. Also known as river blindness, onchocerciasis infects an estimated 17 million people, with more than 99 percent of these cases spread throughout 31 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 169 million people are at risk of contracting this disease.

TOVA Initiative was launched as a response to the 2012 London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases, and the scientific and technical demands for new tools to complement ivermectin mass drug administration (MDA). It is working to establish a roadmap for developing a vaccine, with plans to take at least one vaccine candidate to Phase 1 trials by 2017 and Phase 2 trials by 2020.

“TOVA Initiative brings together a diverse and skilled consortium of partners committed to developing an onchocerciasis vaccine,” said Dr. Alex Debrah, a lecturer and dean of the Faculty of Allied Health Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. “When achieved, the vaccine will prevent millions of children in Africa from becoming blind. We therefore pledge our unflinching support for this noble course.”

An onchocerciasis vaccine for Africa would build on important progress made by the Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) and the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), as the NTD community moves from control of onchocerciasis to its elimination as a public health threat.

“We are delighted to be a part of this new global initiative for the development of a vaccine against onchocerciasis,” said Dr. Benjamin Makepeace, lecturer in Infection Biology at the University of Liverpool, UK. “We look forward to sharing advocacy, expertise and a common vision in the push to eliminate this neglected disease from the African continent.”

TOVA traces its origins to initial support of more than $20 million during the 1980s and 1990s from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation to several laboratories in Africa, Europe and the United States. It has also received support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the European Union for the development of molecular reagents, preclinical (laboratory animal) models, and our understanding of the effects of infection on host immunity, which ultimately led to the identification of key protective antigens.

“The Sabin PDP is excited to join partners from Africa, Europe and the United States to advance the world’s first onchocerciasis vaccine,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of Sabin, director of the Sabin PDP and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “With unique expertise in developing vaccines for NTDs, we look forward to working with our partners to identify innovative ways to reduce the burden of onchocerciasis in Africa.”

TOVA Initiative’s partners in Africa include the University of Buea, the Cameroon Research Foundation in Tropical Disease and Environment; the Cameroon Academy of Sciences; and Kwame Nkrumah University, Ghana. European partners include the University of Edinburgh, UK; the University of Liverpool, UK; the University of Glasgow, UK; Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France; University Hospital of Bonn, Germany; and Imperial College, London, UK. TOVA Initiative partners in the United States include New York Blood Center, New York City; Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Penn.; Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, La.; and the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

More information on TOVA is available here.

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About The Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership

The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) worldwide. Sabin develops new vaccines, advocates for increased use of existing vaccines and promotes expanded access to affordable medical treatments in collaboration with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals and non-profit organizations. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.

Sabin’s research and development of new vaccines is conducted through Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP), based at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine. The Sabin PDP works with leading private, academic and public institutions around the world to develop and test safe, effective and low-cost vaccines that benefit the world’s poorest communities. A complete overview of ongoing projects and partners is available at www.sabin.org/pdp.

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