The Demand

The Demand

Progress towards a vaccine against River Blindness
EMCF, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation NIH, National Institutes for Health USA EU, European Union

TOVA has its origins in the river blindness (onchocerciasis) vaccine program of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF) that contributed $21.6 million between 1985 and 1999.

This investment focused on:

  • development of experimental animal models for screening candidate vaccine antigens and analysis of mechanisms evoked by immunization with protective recombinant vaccine antigens
  • immunological studies in animals and in humans
  • identification of protective antigens
  • increased understanding of the epidemiology and pathology of river blindness

When the programme ended, the work of African, American and European laboratories had developed three animal models, identified a portfolio of 15 O volvulus vaccine candidates including eight that were tested in the O ochengi bovine model, and obtained proof-of-principle of vaccination against infection.

The impetus given by EMCF was carried forward by the European Union through its Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (FP7, E PIAF, Enhanced Protective Immunity Against Filariasis, coordinated by Professor David W Taylor), and by the US NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (The development of a recombinant vaccine against human onchocerciasis headed by Dr Sara Lustigman).

The work of these programmes has identified three candidate vaccine antigens that have proven to be efficacious in three different filarial animal model systems and in three independent laboratories. The Onchocerciasis Vaccine for Africa (TOVA) Initiative brings established US and African- European consortia together with the best practice of product development from the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, (Professors Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi), and mathematical modelling from Imperial College London (Professor María-Gloria Basáñez).