Despite some progress in the identification of biomarkers of M. tuberculosis infection and disease, much more remains to be done to develop more effective diagnostics, and surrogate markers to evaluate development of drugs and vaccines against tuberculosis (TB). A joint NIH/StopTB meeting in Bethesda in 2010 identified the lack of surrogate markers as one of the most pressing problems facing TB research. We plan to hold a conference on TB biomarkers, which will be the follow-up to an international conference held in 2008 in the US. The objective of the conference planned for 2013 is to present advances in knowledge generated through basic, translational and clinical research on novel biosignatures and their utilization as tools for TB control. To achieve this, the conference will bring together leaders in TB biology, epidemiology, diagnostic development and use, and in clinical and basic research to (i) discuss the biological events underlying expression of potential markers of infection status), (ii) find solutions to the challenges faced in interpretation of very large datasets, (iii) identify translational research opportunities, (iii) present innovative new assay technologies, and (iv) define challenges at the preclinical and clinical stages of test development. The conference is planned to bring together leaders in different but complementary fields to discuss work that holds the promise of synergy but that only rarely is presented at the same forum. To ensure a diverse pool of participants, advertising will include components targeted to minorities. The requested funding will be used to support participation of junior investigators, particularly those from developing, TB-endemic nations.
Globally, tuberculosis (TB) is still a major cause of death, causing roughly 1.5 million deaths and eight million new cases of disease per year. Advances have been made in the four years since the last meeting in diagnostics and vaccine research;however, important challenges remain in identifying TB before people become contagious - which is key to stopping the epidemic - and in finding ways to rapidly determine whether a new vaccine works. The conference on Biomarkers for tuberculosis: new questions, new tools builds on the previous successful conference in 2008 on immunodiagnostics, and can be viewed as the next step in establishing partnerships for multi-disciplinary, systems approaches that employ biomarkers of disease to achieve the next generation of tuberculosis control.