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Discoveries Brighten Search for AIDS Vaccine
Date:9/3/2009

tor of research at the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), those antibodies were only effective against the subtypes of HIV chiefly found in the United States or Europe, not in the developing world, where the majority of HIV-infected people now live.

In contrast, the new antibodies, dubbed PG9 and PG16, "are active against a whole range of clades, or types of viruses that you are likely to encounter all around the world, rather than just one specific region of the world," Johnston said.

And while the antibodies discovered earlier latched onto HIV at tough-to-reach spots on the virus, PG9 and PG16 target a much more accessible point. According to Johnston, that should mean that "you don't need to produce as many of the antibodies for them to be effective as you do with the other antibodies. So, it's within a much more realistic range for a vaccine that would get your body to pump out a sufficient number of antibodies [to shield against HIV]."

The process by which the IAVI-led team discovered the antibodies is also a departure for AIDS research, Koff said. His group used cutting-edge technologies developed by two U.S. biotech companies, Theraclone Sciences and Monogram Biosciences, to comb through blood samples from over 1,800 HIV-infected people living in countries around the world. The two new antibodies were discovered by IAVI researchers in the blood of one African donor.

This approach could reveal more -- and, potentially, even better -- antibodies in the future, Koff said. "It's going to yield a lot of fruit in the coming months," he said. "We presume that as we screen other donors now that we are going to find other antibodies and targets on HIV."

Still, an effective vaccine against AIDS is not right around the corner, the experts said, and it could still be years before any tried-and-true vaccine candidate emerges.

"The road to a vaccine is going to be a long and arduous one," Johnston stres
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