UNAIR Alumnus Takes Part in the Tuberculosis Vaccine Development Team in Europe

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Dr. H. Satria Arief Prabowo, an alumnus of Universitas Airlangga, started taking part in the tuberculosis vaccine development team while undergoing research training in Groningen, the Netherlands in 2012. He continued the research during his doctoral program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.

Shortening TB therapy from 6 to 1 Month

Through a research consortium funded by the European Union, Satria’s project aims to develop therapeutic vaccinations for TB sufferers. This approach is quite unique because vaccinations generally given to prevent disease can also be given to patients who are already sick to awaken the immune system. Moreover, the vaccination has the potential to shorten the treatment period of TB sufferers.

“Our target of TB therapy can be shortened from 6 months to 1 month, and that will have a big impact so that the TB disease rate can be reduced significantly in the world,” he continued.

The vaccine development was completed at the end of 2019 after undergoing phase III clinical trials with satisfactory results. In early 2020, Satria and the team met WHO TB Program Director who later agreed to provide support for the vaccine to be implemented in TB endemic countries such as Indonesia in the near future.

In 2019, Satria was also entrusted to be in a team making WHO guidelines for the handling of Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB) in children and adolescents in the European region. The book was published in 2019 and accessible on the WHO website.

“My participation in the drafting team of the handbook was considered due to my experience over the past few years in this field,” Satria said.

In addition to developing vaccines, Satria also had the opportunity to present the results of his research at various prestigious international congresses, such as in European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID) congress in Madrid, Spain (May 2017) and Ljubljana, Slovenia (May 2019), World Global Forum for Tuberculosis Vaccines in New Delhi, India (February 2018), World Conference of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (IUATLD) in Liverpool, England (October 2016-17), and Keystone Symposia: New Approaches to Vaccines for Human and Veterinary Tropical Diseases in Cape Town, South Africa (May 2016).

When presenting the results of research at IUATLD, Satria took the time to call her parents who were in Surabaya to ask for blessings just before the presentation. It was their support that later made him confident and able to perform optimally at the prestigious event.

“It was my parents’ support that made me confident and I could perform optimally when presenting the results of my research,” he continued.

At the moment, Satria is still continuing his research for the development of therapeutic vaccination for tuberculosis (TB) sufferers as a research fellow at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), England. The research began in 2014 when he started his Doctoral program until he completed his PhD. The research was carried out in collaboration with Immunitor Inc. and Archivel Farma, SL which is a non-profit vaccine development agency in Europe.

Satria who received an award from MURI as the youngest doctoral graduate in Medical Sciences in Indonesia in 2019, was interested in developing a vaccine considering that Tuberculosis (TB) is widely known as a poor community’s disease in Indonesia. In fact, TB is a disease that greatly affects the productivity of sufferers’ lives.

During his medical education at the Faculty of Medicine UNAIR, Satria had encountered and handled many children and adults with TB.

“I then began to look for the cause of the high TB cases. Apparently the current BCG vaccination has not been very effective in preventing TB in adults, so we need a new vaccine that is more effective,” he said.

On the other hand, TB treatment takes a long time to six months, making it difficult for the patient to heal and trigger further illnesses. Satria’s research while taking doctoral studies aimed at answering these two problems.