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Jul 13, 2012

Duke, Scripps to Anchor New NIAID-Funded HIV/AIDS Center

  • NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) awarded $31 million in first-year funding, and could give up to $186 million or more over seven years, to Duke University and The Scripps Research Institute for the new Centers for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID).

    The new centers—one each to be located at Duke and Scripps—were created to accelerate HIV vaccine development by supporting multidisciplinary research into immune responses that prevent or contain HIV infection, as well as by generating model vaccine components that can induce protective immune responses.

    “Considerable progress has been made in identifying antibodies that can prevent a broad range of HIV strains from infecting human cells. CHAVI-ID will attempt to understand how those antibodies and other immune responses work to protect against HIV infection, providing scientists with a rational foundation for designing what we hope will be an effective HIV vaccine,” NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., says.

    CHAVI-ID is a consortium of researchers at universities and academic medical centers designed to build on advances made at several labs nationwide—including the original Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) at Duke, whose seven-year funding award from NIAID ended in June.

    CHAVI’s leader, Barton F. Haynes, M.D., will lead the CHAVI-ID center at Duke, which said it could receive more than $139 million in total over the new consortium’s seven-year funding period.

    That figure includes the initial $19.9 million for Duke’s work as part of the consortium. Researchers working under Dr. Haynes will identify and target the vulnerabilities of HIV to specific immune system responses and use that information to design vaccines that induce protective immunity at the time and location of HIV transmission. Their work will largely focus on inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies that can prevent HIV infection as well as on generating protective T-cell and innate immune system responses.

    Scripps said it expects to secure as much as $77 million over the seven-year grant period. Dennis Burton, Ph.D., will lead the CHAVI-ID center at Scripps, where researchers will conduct research on antibodies and B cells, toward development of immunogens capable of eliciting protective antibodies to HIV. Additionally, the Scripps-based researchers will study CD4+ T cells in an attempt to harness these cells’ direct antiviral activity, as well as their ability to help B cells produce antibodies.

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