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Gates Foundation to fund collaborative research for HIV vaccinenews
20 July 2006

Mumbai: The Bill and Melinda Gates (BMG) Foundation has announced a $287 million funding programme, involving 16 grants, to create an international network of collaborative research to develop HIV vaccine.

BMG will bring together 16 research teams and 165 investigators from 19 countries from the world over for development of the vaccine.

The grants will support innovative and effective research on HIV vaccine and try to tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges in AIDS research.

Eleven consortia will focus on vaccine discovery, applying new scientific knowledge and cutting-edge research techniques to create and evaluate novel vaccine candidates. These consortia will be linked to five central laboratories and data analysis facilities, enabling investigators to openly share data and compare results, and allowing the most promising vaccine approaches to be quickly prioritized for further development, the foundation said in a release.

"An HIV vaccine is our best long-term hope for controlling the global AIDS epidemic, but it has proven to be a tremendously difficult scientific challenge," said Dr Jose Esparza, senior advisor on HIV vaccines for the Gates Foundation. "We have all been frustrated by the slow pace of progress in HIV vaccine development, yet breakthroughs are achievable if we aggressively pursue scientific leads and work together in new ways," he added.

Most HIV vaccine research to date has been conducted by small teams working independently. While some gains have been made, these efforts lacked the type of support to make it large-scale and productive,

The grants known as the `Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery', will support:

  • Vaccine discovery consortia: Eleven vaccine discovery consortia will pursue a range of innovative strategies for designing vaccine candidates to trigger immune responses believed to be critical for protection against HIV. The consortia will focus on overcoming two main scientific obstacles: designing vaccine candidates capable of eliciting effective neutralizing antibodies to HIV, and improving current vaccine candidates capable of stronger and more durable protective cellular immune responses.

  • Central facilities: Five central facilities will be established, including three laboratory networks for measuring the immune responses elicited by vaccine candidates, a research specimen repository, and a data and statistical management center.

As a condition for receiving funding, the newly-funded vaccine discovery consortia have agreed to use the central facilities to test vaccine candidates, share information with other investigators, and compare results using standardized benchmarks.

"These projects bring a new level of creativity and intensity to bear on major scientific challenges facing HIV vaccine development," said Dr Nicholas Hellmann, acting director of the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB, and reproductive health program. "Some of the vaccine concepts that will be pursued have been talked about for years, but have never been adequately studied. If successful, they could lead to entirely new paradigms for HIV vaccine development," he said.

In addition, the foundation is developing global access plans to help ensure that the discoveries will be accessible and affordable for developing countries, where the vast majority of new HIV infections occur.

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Gates Foundation to fund collaborative research for HIV vaccine