IAVI scales up efforts to cross new frontiers

Renewing its resolve to develop effective vaccines for elusive diseases, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) intends to further expand its Human Vaccines Project with infusion of fresh funds from the industry


A grant of US$ 350,000 from GSK has added new muscles to the efforts of IAVI to support implementation of the Human Vaccines Project, a new public-private partnership

Each year, the persistent global diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, together kill more than 3.5 million people and infect millions more, despite impressive advances in treatment and prevention. Experts say that the successful vaccine development strategies developed in past might not work against a number of today's complex parasites, bacteria, viruses and cancers.

In the background of growing concerns over lack of solutions, the 35 experts from industry, academia, government and nongovernmental organizations had met on February 5-6, 2014 in California, and "concluded that the concept for a Human Vaccines Project was meritorious, timely and potentially transformative," the report stated. The group identified three major common challenges in vaccine research and development: an insufficient understanding of how to generate specific, potent, broad and durable immune responses in humans; an insufficient understanding of precise antigens required to produce desired protective immunity, and a need for a deeper appreciation of how best to optimize vaccine efficacy in newborns, the elderly and populations in the developing world.

They recommended that the Human Vaccines Project focus on mapping the human immune system into a "human immunome" to facilitate vaccine discovery, and on a comprehensive series of systematic human immunology-based clinical research studies with experimental vaccines aimed at solving the identified scientific challenges and overcoming the limited predictive powers of animal models.

"Creating an enabling environment for and implementing such trials, and ensuring close engagement with the vaccine industry and public sector research agencies, would be keys to the project's success," said report co-author Ian D Gust, professorial fellow, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, who chaired the meeting.

The February meeting was the first of three workshops to catalyze the project, with an initial focus on identifying key objectives to inform the project's scientific plan. The second workshop, held in July, focussed on organizational, management and financial questions to inform a business plan. The third workshop to be held soon will bring together key stakeholders and potential donors to review the scientific and business plans and prepare for a projected launch in 2015. The three initial workshops are funded by a grant to IAVI from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


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