NIAID Awards $81 Million in Grants to Four Biotech Companies for HIV Vaccine Research, Development
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on Monday announced grants totaling $81 million to four biotech companies to develop HIV vaccines, the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 9/30). The grants are part of NIAID's HIV Vaccine Design and Development Teams program, which is a public-private partnership aimed at accelerating HIV vaccine development, according to a NIAID release. Each of the research teams is employing a different strategy to develop an HIV vaccine, but none of the teams' vaccine projects contain the genetic information to make a complete virus, protecting study participants from becoming infected with HIV (NIAID release, 9/29). NIAID awarded the five-year grants to Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based AlphaVax; San Diego, Calif.-based Epimmune; Columbia, Md.-based Novavax; and Progenics Pharmaceuticals of Tarrytown, N.Y., Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times reports (Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times, 9/30). NIAID did not disclose the specific amount of funding for each group, according to the Post (Washington Post, 9/30). NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said, "A safe and effective HIV vaccine is critical to the control of HIV globally. These new awards will speed the development of promising HIV vaccine candidates that are based on recent advances in HIV vaccine design and on the latest discoveries in HIV virology and immunology." A summary of each group's research plans appears below:
- AlphaVax will use a nonreplicating alphavirus to deliver the genes to make four HIV proteins. The genes are from HIV strains present in South Africa. In animal models, the vaccine induced strong cellular and antibody immune system responses (NIAID release, 9/29).
- Epimmune will work with researchers from the Danish drug firm Bavarian Nordic; Menlo Park, Calif.-based SRI International; and San Diego, Calif.-based Althea Technologies to identify protein fragments called epitopes for use in HIV vaccines. Researchers believe the epitopes will help stimulate an immune system response to infectious agents, Reuters reports (Reuters, 9/29).
- Novavax will work with researchers from Emory University, Tulane University and the University of Pittsburgh to develop a new class of HIV vaccine candidates for pre-clinical and clinical trials (Baltimore Sun, 9/30).
- Progenics Pharmaceuticals will work with researchers from Weill Medical College of Cornell University to develop and test a vaccine that uses an altered form of the HIV envelope protein in order to induce broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies to HIV. The vaccine will be targeted toward strains of HIV in developing countries, according to the release (NIAID release, 9/29).