Non-communicable diseases (NCDs; syn. chronic diseases) are the leading cause of death in the world. It is characterised by long duration, generally slow progression and often associated with the older population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs kill 38 million people annually, with nearly 28 million NCD-related deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, with 17.5, 8.2, 4 and 1.5 million deaths annually, respectively. NCD behavioural risk factors include tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet.
These behavioural risk factors lead to raised blood pressure, obesity (i.e. overweight), hyperglycaemia (i.e. high blood glucose levels) and hyperlipidaemia (i.e. high fat levels in the blood). Limited access to health services, expensive health-care costs and greater exposure to harmful products contribute towards increased NCDs in low-income countries.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) targets the immune system and weakens one’s defence systems against infections and some types of cancer. Despite research efforts and social programme initiatives, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far. In 2015, about 1.1 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. More than 2.1 million people became newly infected with HIV adding to the 36.7 million people living with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, accounting for nearly 70% of the global infections, and two-thirds of new HIV infections in 2015.

The virus is transmitted via the exchange of a variety of body fluids from infected individuals. Infected individuals gradually become immune-deficient as the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells. Immunodeficiency results in increased susceptibility to a wide range of infections and diseases that people with healthy immune systems can fight off.

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), the most advanced stage of HIV infection, can take 2 to 15 years to develop depending on the individual. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections, or other severe clinical manifestations.

Numerous vaccines candidates currently at different stages of development require adjuvants that can enhance their efficacy. State of the art adjuvant technology will become available through Afrigen’s formulation centre for local HIV vaccine development. Additionally, top vaccine candidates will be brought to Sub-Saharan African through Afrigen’s international partnerships.

Tuberculosis (TB) is the greatest cause of death worldwide, with 1.5 million people dying from the disease annually. TB is caused by an infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The currently used prophylactic vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin(BCG), is only partially effective against TB infection with protection waning during adolescence, Thus BCG is essentially ineffective in the adolescent and adult population. Additionally, an increasing incidence of both multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) strains of M. tuberculosis has been observed. Resistant forms of TB increase the length and cost of treatment, highlighting the need for new and cost-effective solutions to combat this deadly disease.

An important stride in the development of next-generation TB vaccines has been the creation of adjuvants that stimulate effective, long-lived and appropriate immune responses. New vaccine candidate, containing ID93, a recombinant fusion-protein antigen developed at IDRI, has been designed to recognise both active and latent TB. The formulation includes proprietary adjuvant, GLA-SE, which has been previously tested in humans. Additional potential advantages of the vaccine candidate, include efficacy against both drug-resistant and drug-sensitive strains of M. tuberculosis in animal studies as well as efficacy in drug-shortening regimens. ID93 has also been shown to boost BCG, extending its application to both prophylactic and therapeutic treatments. Afrigen owns an exclusive license to ID93+GLA-SE.

The “One Health” concept describes the relationship between humans, animals and the environment, and the role that these three parts play in the spread of disease. Currently the global human population comprises 7.2 billion people and is expected to grow to 9.5 billion people by 2050. Globally most of the arid soil is used for agricultural farming, of which 40% of the total agricultural land is used for the production of livestock for animal-related products.

Since 75% of known diseases are of animal origin and 60% of these affect humans, it is vital to combat animal pathogens to sustain human health. Thus, the application of adjuvants to veterinary targets is a key R&D focus area at Afrigen.