IAVI-led Team Wins Major Grant to Study HIV-neutralizing Antibodies
NEW YORK, September 27, 2010 - A team of investigators headed by International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Investigator
Pascal Poignard has been awarded a major grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the US National Institutes
of Health (NIH) to investigate the biological mechanisms underlying the generation of broadly neutralizing antibodies by HIV positive
individuals. The research is designed to explore why they develop in a minority of individuals and what factors contribute to
their emergence following infection by HIV. These antibodies, which can bind to and disable a wide spectrum of HIV
variants, are thought to hold valuable clues to the effective design of AIDS vaccines; if a vaccine could elicit
such antibodies, it is believed, it would be highly effective. Researchers at and affiliated with IAVI and
at the NIH's Vaccine Research Center have recently discovered several particularly potent and broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV.
The U19 grant, which the NIH issues to support research programs involving the participation of multiple scientific collaborators, will
provide US $7.8 million to fund the coordinated investigations of four leading academic laboratories and the contributions of three support groups.
The researchers will have access to blood samples and relevant data from cohorts of HIV positive volunteers in the US and five sub-Saharan
African countries. IAVI's Poignard is a physician and immunologist whose laboratory is located at the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center
at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, which was opened in 2009. "This program will provide valuable
information to researchers around the world who are engaged in efforts to develop vaccines against HIV," said
Wayne Koff, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at IAVI. "We expect that it will help address
what is perhaps the most significant impediment to the development of effective AIDS vaccines: the generation
of antibodies that are versatile enough to disable the majority of the variants of HIV."
Recent studies suggest that between 10 and 20 percent of HIV positive individuals generate broadly neutralizing responses, typically doing
so only three to four years after HIV infection. What is unknown is why and how those individuals develop such responses. "We expect that the
biological explanations for the development of broadly neutralizing antibody responses," says Poignard, "are likely to be of special
relevance to the design of candidate AIDS vaccines and immunization regimens devised to elicit similar antibodies."
In pursuit of those explanations, Poignard and his colleagues will investigate what differentiates the HIV infections and immune responses
of those who produce broadly neutralizing antibodies from those who do not. Their studies will use samples that have been collected from two cohorts of
HIV positive volunteers whose health has been systematically tracked from the very beginning of their infections. One group comes from a study
called Protocol C, which was established in Africa with IAVI's sponsorship to enable precisely these kinds of investigations and has already
enrolled about 500 individuals recently infected with one of three different major subtypes of HIV-1 (clades A, C and D). The second
group, the First Choice Cohort of more than 100 individuals in San Diego, is a project funded by NIAID.
The researchers involved in the U19 program are led by the following investigators:
Pascal Poignard, the Program Director, a Principal Investigator at the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of
Immunology and Microbial Science at the Scripps Research Institute.
J. Christopher Love, an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Associate Member at the Eli and
Edythe L. Broad Institute and Associate Faculty at the Ragon Institute.
Shane Crotty, an Associate Professor with tenure at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and an adjunct professor at the University of
California, San Diego.
Davey M. Smith, a physician and an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of
California, San Diego, where he also directs the Centers for AIDS Research Translational Virology Core.
A Protein Production Core will be led by Simon Hoffenberg, a Principal Scientist at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and an Assistant Professor
at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
A Data Management Core will be led by Sergei L. Kosakovsky Pond, an Assistant Professor in the University of California, San Diego Department of
Medicine (Divisions of Biomedical Informatics and Infectious Diseases).
Finally, Poignard will also lead an Administrative Core that will coordinate the entire effort, providing scientific leadership and fiscal and
personnel management for the overall program.
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development
of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use
throughout the world. Founded in 1996 and operational in 25 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates.
In July 2009, IAVI received a four-star
rating for the eighth consecutive year from Charity Navigator, America's largest independent evaluator of charities. In fact, nearly 90 percent of
IAVI's finances go exclusively toward
ensuring the development of a safe, effective, preventive AIDS vaccine.
IAVI was founded with the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, and Until There's A
Cure Foundation. Other major supporters
include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, The John D. Evans Foundation, The New York
Community Trust, the James B. Pendleton Charitable
Trust; the Governments of Canada, Denmark, India, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States,
the Basque Autonomous Government, the European Union
as well as The City of New York, Economic Development Corporation; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including
BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Bristol-Myers
Squibb, Continental Airlines, Google Inc., Henry Schein, Inc., Pfizer Inc, and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.; leading AIDS charities such as
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; other private
donors such as The Haas Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world. For more information, see www.iavi.org .
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs
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Source: IAVI International AIDS Vaccine Initiative