Revised plan incorporates lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent advances in technology, aligning with the Department of Health and Human Services’ roadmap.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has updated its Strategic Plan for NIH Research to Cure Hepatitis B, which is a roadmap for ending the hepatitis B epidemic and focusing on developing a cure, as well as improved strategies for screening, vaccination, and follow-up care.
The revised plan incorporates lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent advances in technology. It aligns with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan and part of the agency’s ongoing response to the effects of hepatitis B virus (HBV).
HBV is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, from a mother to her baby at birth or via needle sharing or sexual contact.
Individuals may experience short-term illness or may not develop symptoms. However others, especially those infected early in life, can develop chronic infections and suffer liver-related complications, including cirrhosis and liver cancer and failure, which can be life-threatening when left untreated.
There is no cure. However, there are effective vaccines that can prevent HBV, as well as oral antiviral agents and other therapeutics to slow the progression of HBV complications.
In 2019, the NIH issued its first strategic plan for hepatitis B research, which was created by a collaborative group of policy and science experts. The group was led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and now includes representatives from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as well as many other organizations.
The updated plan has 3 priorities that include creating strategies to cure and prevent hepatitis B, developing resources and tools for hepatitis B, , and improving the biologic understanding of hepatitis B.
Investigators plan to use discoveries about how the virus is transmitted and what causes the disease to contribute to next-generation therapeutics and vaccines, which they think is essential to achieving a cure for HBV and controlling the virus.
With support from the NIH, investigators will also develop new animal models, cell culture systems, and cell-free systems to help advance research. By identifying better biomarkers and developing improved diagnostics, investigators can track disease progression in individuals with HBV, which will enhance clinical research. The new plan highlights global research networks that are supported by the NIH, which can be used in coordinated, large clinical studies and contribute to biorepositories for open data sharing.
Aligning with partnerships in academic and industry through leveraging basic research and resources, investigators can develop promising therapeutics and vaccines,as well as strategies to effectively evaluate these formulas. This includes expanding clinical research capacity and developing culturally appropriate strategies to reach diverse populations.
The NIH will conduct clinical trials that are relevant for individuals most in need of a hepatitis B cure by using strategies learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to reach and evaluate treatments in at-risk populations, including ethnic and racial minority groups.
NIH updates Hepatitis B strategic research plan. News release. EurekAlert. August 1, 2022. Accessed August 3, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/960453