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While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to serious setbacks in progress against tuberculosis (TB) with mortality now rising again after a slow but steady decline before the pandemic, COVID-19 has also demonstrated the feasibility of large-scale investment into the rapid development of urgently needed technologies when political will and a sense of urgency exists. Researchers were working on developing new tests, drugs, and vaccines for TB before the pandemic, including one vaccine candidate currently in advanced clinical trials that was developed by GSK and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Now, powerful technologies that were employed in the development of vaccines for COVID-19, like messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), are starting to be employed against TB, with BioNTech and Pfizer planning trials of an mRNA TB vaccine in the next few months.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first-ever list of fungal priority pathogens in response to the expanding geographic range of dangerous fungi due to climate change, the rise in cases of fungal disease during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the growth in resistance of fungal diseases to treatments. The list includes 19 pathogens that have been identified as posing the greatest threat to human health. The goal of publishing the list is to catalyze funding for research into fungal infections, which receives less than 1.5 percent of all funding for infectious diseases, as well as to encourage improvements to the treatment guidelines for these infections.
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) recently published a draft of a Coronavirus Vaccines Research and Development Roadmap, a project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, for public review and comment. The roadmap, which builds on lessons learned from the development of successful COVID-19 vaccines, identifies strategies to develop effective vaccines for new COVID-19 variants as well as coronaviruses that have yet to emerge. In particular, the roadmap emphasizes the need for durable, broadly protective vaccines that are simple to deliver and that protect against multiple coronaviruses.