A profile of Dr Grania Brigden, Deputy Director, Department of Tuberculosis and HIV at The Union.
“The truth is that TB is a curable disease that nobody should die from, yet it is the world´s largest infectious disease killer. I am passionate about ensuring everyone affected by TB has access to better treatments, so we can start to eliminate this disease globally,” says Dr Grania Brigden, Deputy Director, Department of Tuberculosis and HIV at The Union.
A UK trained doctor, Dr Brigden began her career in TB care during her medical training when she had the opportunity to work in Kampala, Uganda. Dr Brigden said, “During my time in Uganda, I worked with the most amazingly dedicated and hardworking people who all wanted to improve the TB care they were offering. This experience changed the course of my career and since then I have wanted to do whatever I can to eliminate this preventable disease.”
Based in Geneva, Dr Brigden joined The Union in 2016, initially working on The Life Prize, a project that unites researchers in a unique collaboration to find a one-month or less treatment regimen for all types of TB, which works for everyone, everywhere. Now in a new role as Deputy Director at The Union, Dr Brigden still works on The Life Prize, but now also offers technical and scientific support to the TB Department as a whole. She works closely with the Scientific Director and the Director of the TB Department to support the work of The Union as well as maintaining strong working relationships with Geneva-based organisations.
Dr Brigden said, “It is important for me to be able to contribute to the vital work The Union does for global lung health. Each year millions of people with TB are missed and undiagnosed. I want to help find everyone with TB. No-one should be missed; everyone should be able to access the best treatments.
“Going forward I think we need to work together to offer a comprehensive package of care which addresses finding, treating and preventing cases of TB, particularly in those communities most at risk. This comprehensive approach will ensure that people affected by TB have a long and healthy life.”
The scale of the TB global health emergency was acknowledged last year by the United Nations, at the inaugural High-Level Meeting on TB, with a Political Declaration signed by world leaders committed to ending TB by 2030. When asked about the challenges in the fight to end TB Dr Brigden said, “There have been considerable positive changes in the last five to 10 years but we need to see more funding and political will to reach our global targets to end TB. The funding challenge is particularly important to me as I feel we are on the cusp of dramatic changes with the R&D pipeline having promising vaccine candidates and new classes of drugs that could be developed into future regimens but without a dramatic increase in funding we could see all this momentum lost.”
As further testimony to Dr Brigden’s commitment to forging ahead with momentum on TB R&D, she recently co-organised TBScience 2018, a two-day pre-conference held before the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health in The Hague, Netherlands devoted to basic and translational TB research. TBScience brought together scientists from microbiology, immunology, molecular biology, pharmacology, epidemiology and mathematical modelling to present and discuss recent findings on TB transmission, infection and disease. There was also additional focus on the development of better vaccines, new drugs and efficient but effective diagnostics for TB.
Dr Brigden reflects, “Seeing the room full of people having stimulating discussions following the scientific presentations was a great moment for me. I am really looking forward to TBScience2019 in Hyderabad particularly with all the exciting science happening in TB at the moment especially with the development of new and shorter regimens for latent tuberculosis infection and drug-resistant TB.”
In her role at The Union, Dr Brigden is always looking at ways to use new scientific evidence to implement a comprehensive approach to TB care. “Looking ahead I am really excited to find ways to identify and prevent TB cases by addressing risk factors and by offering TB preventative therapy. I want to scale up pathways to ensure new tools for TB can be adapted and implemented quickly so people affected by TB have the best support and treatment they need.”
TBScience 2019 is being held before the 50th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Hyderabad later this year.