Group Astreptococcus (GAS) causes an important global disease burden. An estimated 18 million people suffer from a serious GAS disease, and 1.8 million new cases and 517,000 deaths occur annually. A great proportion of the disease burden lies inlow and middle income countries (LMICs). GAS pharyngities and skin infections arevery frequent, around the globe. The greatest burden is due to rheumatic heartdisease, but invasive GAS diseases (including maternal and neonatal sepsis)also contribute significantly, together with acute rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease and post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis. GAS pharyngitis is a contributorto global antibiotic use.
There is animportant need to reinforce current control strategies and develop new primary prevention strategies including vaccines. On 1 June 2017, the Executive Baard of the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended a Resolution on ‘Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease' for adoption at the World Health Assembly in May 2018. The need for vaccine research will be highlighted, alongside other proposed actions. Pre-clinical models, previous human challenge studies, as well as early development vaccine studies, suggest that it is biologically feasible to develop a protective vaccine against GAS. Vaccine development has been impeded by safety concerns regarding the potential for induction of GAS—mediated autoimmune diseases, but research suggests appropriate antigen selection and formulation could alleviate this concern. Although a number of recombinant, multivalent vaccine candidates have been developed, there has been little financial investment beyond early stage clinical studies.
The WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) aims to promote and accelerate the development of GAS vaccines. Building on progress in the area, with significant advances in antigen discovery, the establishment of preclinical and early clinical evaluation platforms, emerging new proposals about development pathways, and renewed public health need positioning, WHO recently engaged in the development of a GAS vaccine Research and Development (R&D) roadmap, highlighting priority activities required for accelerated product development. A WHO Preferred product Characteristics document has also been developed, with the aim to guide vaccine development stakeholders towards product development meeting public health requirements.
In line with its mission, WHO will now convene representatives from the health sector to facilitate strategic alignment and optimization of the WHO guidance and priority setting,provide scientific advice on vaccine development, shares policy advise with interested stakeholders and the public. WHO IVR is organizing a consultation on the status of GAS vaccine research, aiming to discuss gaps and priorities in research and development, build consensus on clinical development pathways,engage funding agencies for strengthened support and contribute to build a favourable institutional context, encouraging collaborations and partnerships.
In May 16-17, 2018, the WHO Consultation on GAS Vaccine R&D was held as planed in London UK. About 70 scientists from the whole world, including the scientific team from Olymvax, attended the consultation. All the top brains of various Companies and Institutes that are interested in the GAS vaccine, gathered together, discussing and sharing the latest advances in the field, includingthe GAS Liposome Vaccine that Olymvax is co-developing with Griffith University, which was forecasted a bright future by the attendees.