Rutgers awarded $20M to lead consortium fighting TB

In an effort to coordinate a worldwide effort to stop the most deadly infectious disease from spreading, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School on Thursday said it will receive $20 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to coordinate research being conducted in eight nations on tuberculosis control and prevention.

The research will be done through the TB-RePORT International program that was established in 2012 to accelerate research and development for TB control and prevention. RePORT, or Regional Prospective Observational Research in Tuberculosis, networks exist in and are funded by Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines and South Africa and will soon include Uganda, bringing together experts in TB research, including clinicians and scientists, from nations hardest hit by TB to collaborate and share information about the disease.

The consortium provides access to populations in Africa, Asia and South America, a common protocol of clinical and data standards, regional biorepositories with well-characterized specimens and a network of specialized laboratories.

“Given its scope, the consortium has the capacity to study critically important outcomes of M. tuberculosis infection and TB disease with sufficient statistical power and generalizability,” Jerrold Ellner, director of the coordinating center and a professor of medicine and director of research innovation at the Center for Emerging Pathogens at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said.

Since its inception, RePORT has become a leading global TB research consortium for observational and biomarker studies, encompassing 32 study sites and 13,534 participants. Contributions have included clinical and epidemiologic studies of the interaction of TB with HIV, diabetes mellitus and malnutrition — as well as the discovery of biomarkers for adverse treatment outcomes and risk of progression.

“There are critical regional differences in TB globally,” Ellner said. “The frequency of drug resistance and HIV infection are well-known variables, but immunity in the host and pathogenicity of the bacillus also vary based on genetics. To control TB globally, we need to determine whether new tools are generalizable or may differ according to region. TBRI is uniquely positioned to make this determination. The role of the coordinating center is to support and facilitate the investigators in the network and to assure that this invaluable global resource achieves its vision.”