Trials on a new vaccine to treat and prevent Crohn’s disease start this month thanks to a fundraising campaign by sufferers, their families and friends.
The group, who include East Dunbartonshire woman Liz Gallacher, collectively raised an incredible £523,000 within three years to ensure the research to help people suffering from the devastating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) could go ahead.
Liz raised £2,500 for the fund through a 20-mile charity walk in memory of her lawyer husband Billy, who founded Gallacher & Co solicitors at Cowgate in Kirkintilloch. Billy passed away 20 years ago from Crohn’s, complicated by bowel cancer, aged 33.
The total, raised by more than 100 ‘Crohn’s MAP Vaccine Heroes’ from all corners of the globe, will fund a diagnostic blood test running alongside the £2.6 million trials.
Scientist and gastroenterologist Professor John Hermon-Taylor, who has studied Crohn’s disease for the past 30 years, has developed the vaccine.
He believes people genetically susceptible to the bug mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) go on to develop Crohn’s disease.
The Crohn’s MAP Vaccine is a therapeutic T-Cell vaccine. This means it should have a beneficial effect (i.e. by eliminating MAP) on those with Crohn’s as well as being a preventative treatment for those who may be genetically vulnerable.
MAP is prevalent in cattle who go on to develop a condition similar to Crohn’s, called Johne’s disease.
Liz said: “Crohn’s disease is often overlooked and the number of people suffering is rising rapidly.
“Scotland now has one of the highest incidences in the world. One in 200 people – mainly young people and children – are affected.
“Toxic mainstream medications only suppress the symptoms of the disease and often have nasty side effects.
“This new research is very exciting and if the trials are successful, researchers say the vaccine may be ready within the next few years.”
The Crohn’s MAP vaccine has been manufactured at top research university King’s College in London.
The first phase on healthy people starts this month at the prestigious Jenner Institute, part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, at Oxford. You can find out more at http://www.jenner.ac.uk/volunteer.
Funds are still being channelled for the second phase, which is due to begin around July.
In the latest guidance to members, Dr AB Hawthorne, Chair of the IBD committee of the British Society of Gastroenterology said: “The BSG welcomes the ongoing research in this area, including better tests for presence of MAP in blood and tissue, and trials of the vaccine, as it does for all potential aetiological factors in Crohn’s.
“Patients should be encouraged to participate in the proposed trials of MAP vaccine when these start, as long as involvement does not prevent them from receiving other treatments of proven effectiveness.”
Fundraising began in 2013 when Professor Taylor’s daughter Amy ran a marathon to help her dad’s lifelong quest for a cure.
Amy said: “If someone had told me when I first set out to run a marathon that along the way I would link arms with an incredible team of people from across the globe I’m not sure I would’ve believed it!”
Find out more at www.crohnsmapvaccine.com or at https://en-gb.facebook.com/crohnsmapvaccine/