New Funding to Fight TB

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Fall 2022

An international collaboration led by Johns Hopkins Medicine has been awarded up to $200 million in research funding over five years to address the global burden of tuberculosis.

The funding comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Supporting, Mobilizing and Accelerating Research for Tuberculosis Elimination (SMART4TB) project.

The cooperative agreement will support studies to improve TB detection methods, treatments, containment and control strategies, and prevention. Additionally, it will strengthen research efforts in countries with high TB rates and will transfer knowledge and capacity to local, regional and national governments, health institutions, and support organizations.

“This extraordinary investment from USAID will enable us to have a transformational impact on global efforts to end TB and will provide unparalleled research, strategic development and policy support opportunities for Johns Hopkins Medicine and our collaborators around the world over the next five years,” says SMART4TB Consortium Chief of Party Richard Chaisson, director of the Center for Tuberculosis Research at Johns Hopkins.

“Additionally,” says Chaisson, “we’ll be able to strengthen and empower the people, organizations and communities directly fighting TB in the areas most affected by the disease.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that last year, TB case detection was down 20 percent, and mortality rates rose for the first time since 2012 — a disturbing trend directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to mitigate it.

Because of TB’s tremendous impact on global health, WHO has repeatedly stressed the critical importance of research — like that which will be funded by the cooperative agreement — toward permanent elimination of the disease.

Partnering with Johns Hopkins Medicine in the SMART4TB consortium are the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tuberculosis; the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation; the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; the Treatment Action Group; and five regional hubs.

“With the help of the regional hubs, we’ll be able to mentor and support investigators and communities in countries with high TB burdens as full partners and commit the majority of our funding to key organizations in those areas in order to catalyze a transition of TB research to local leadership,” says Chaisson.

He adds that the consortium can look to another Johns Hopkins Medicine-led international program, the Zero TB in Tibetan Kids project, for a successful model to emulate.

“That effort — incorporating Johns Hopkins Medicine expertise and done in close partnership with Tibetan refugee health, education and community groups — conducted school-based screenings and implemented novel drug regimens for Tibetan refugee children living in India who were suffering from TB at a rate five times higher than that of Indian children,” explains Chaisson. “As a result, TB incidence in these children was reduced 80% in just three years.”

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