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Scripps Research Institute and IAVI launch world's first dedicated HIV neutralizing antibody center

LA JOLLA, CA, and NEW YORK, NY, September 30, 2008 The Scripps Research Institute, one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the world's only global non-profit organization focused solely on AIDS vaccine development, today announced the establishment of a new research center dedicated exclusively to solving the most pressing challenge facing AIDS vaccine researchers today. Located at The Scripps Research Institute and linked to a network of research institutions in Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S., the center will develop vaccine candidates devised to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV, which are almost certainly essential to preventing infection by the virus.

"The world needs an AIDS vaccine to turn the tide on this devastating pandemic. Scripps Research is delighted to partner with IAVI to establish the world's first center dedicated to tackling the toughest challenge facing AIDS vaccine researchers today," said Richard A. Lerner, M.D., President of The Scripps Research Institute. "We are confident that this center will facilitate more productive exchanges among researchers and stimulate new ideas that will help to accelerate AIDS vaccine science."

Under a five-year supplemental agreement extending the existing collaboration between IAVI and Scripps Research, IAVI will invest $30 million to support the creation of the world's only HIV Neutralizing Antibody Center comprised of multidisciplinary scientific teams, including IAVI scientists, focused on designing vaccines to prevent HIV infection. The first brick-and-mortar institution of its kind, the center at Scripps Research will bring together a critical mass of structural biologists, virologists, chemists, immunologists and computational biologists who will work daily side-by-side to tease out how to generate broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV.

This new center will link to an expanded international scientific Consortium, which was created and is currently project managed by IAVI and known as the Neutralizing Antibody Consortium or NAC. The center and broader NAC will collaborate closely with many levels of IAVI's research program. For example, leading concepts identified by the NAC scientists will be rapidly translated into clinical candidates for human testing at IAVI's AIDS Vaccine Development Laboratory in New York.

"Collaboration is essential to making things happen, so the more we bring people together to promote scientific interaction, the more rapid our progress will be toward the creation of an effective AIDS vaccine," said Dennis Burton, Ph.D., Professor in The Scripps Research Institute Department of Immunology and Microbial Science and Scientific Director of IAVI's NAC. "This reinvigorated approach will also make it easier for us to recruit and mentor the young scientists who represent the future of HIV/AIDS vaccine research. And it will also mean that our scientists will spend less time traveling and attending meetings and more time focused on how to solve the problem of how to generate neutralizing antibodies against HIV."

The scientific community has made solid advances in the HIV antibody field over the past few years. Researchers have successfully crystallized several broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV, determined their structures down to the atomic level, and used this information to get a handle on how each disables HIV. They are now applying what they have learned to develop immunogens that, when delivered as vaccines, will reliably induce these antibodies in all peoplewith the goal of preventing HIV infection.

"Finding a way to elicit neutralizing antibodies against HIV is the biggest challenge facing AIDS vaccine researchers today. IAVI is establishing the HIV Neutralizing Antibody Center at The Scripps Research Institute and expanding our Consortium to ensure that the best minds and institutions are dedicated to solving this problem," said Dr. Seth Berkley, President and CEO of IAVI. "We are excited and hopeful that this collaboration will help to bring us closer to developing a vaccine that will help end the AIDS pandemic."

"Our existing partnership with IAVI, and this additional funding, will allow us to expand our own efforts and to take a more focused approach to the extremely difficult but vital task of finding an effective antibody-inducing component for an AIDS vaccine," said Burton who is renowned for his work on antibodies and antibody responses to HIV. "We believe that the center will coordinate, support and streamline the work being done around the world in laboratories associated with the NAC."

IAVI created the NAC six years ago to address a neglected area of AIDS vaccine research and development. Its purpose was to focus attention on the potential of neutralizing antibodies at a time when vaccine candidates in preclinical and clinical testing were devised almost exclusively to elicit cell-mediated immune (CMI) responses. Most existing vaccines against other diseases work by eliciting neutralizing antibodies.

The NAC is part of a global AIDS vaccine discovery program that extends to Africa, Asia and Europe. Current members of the Consortium include IAVI, The Scripps Research Institute, Academia Sinica, Cornell University, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the Karolinska Institute, Harvard Medical School, the Indian Institute of Science, Oxford University, the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin and the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"The HIV vaccine neutralizing antibody problem is solvable, and its solution is a prerequisite for a successful AIDS vaccine," said Dr. Wayne Koff, IAVI Senior Vice President, Research and Development. "By establishing this center of multidisciplinary experts at Scripps, we expect to solve the problem and accelerate the development of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine."


Contact: Rachel Steinhardt
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative

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