Gates Foundation Gives Institute of Human Virology $15M Grant for Research on HIV Vaccine, Maryland Gov. O’Malley Announces
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine a five-year, $15 million grant to develop a potential HIV vaccine, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Tuesday, the Washington Post reports (Rein, Washington Post, 8/1).
According to the AP/Forbes, the grant is part of the Gates Foundation's Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an international network of researchers focused on developing a safe and effective vaccine. The grant will support a public-private partnership among the institute, Wyeth and Profectus BioSciences. Profectus was created in 2003 to develop and commercialize technology developed by the institute, the AP/Forbes reports.
Dave Wilkins, Chief Operating Officer at the institute, said the first grant payment, which will be about $2.1 million, is expected to be available in two or three weeks. It will be used for equipment maintenance, salaries of about 10 to 15 researchers and supplies, according to the AP/Forbes (Witte, AP/Forbes, 7/31). Robert Gallo, founder and director of the institute, said that he expects the grant to expand his research on a possible HIV vaccine that he has tested successfully on monkeys.
The vaccine candidate works by intercepting the virus before it can enter the body's cells and attack the immune system's response to an infection, the Post reports. It would give antibodies the best chance of working against the various strains of HIV, Gallo said at a press conference in Annapolis, Md. The vaccine candidate also has the potential to eliminate HIV from infected cells, according to Gallo. "We have a vaccine candidate that we think is extremely interesting and unique in its properties," Gallo said. He added that he hopes to begin clinical trials next year (Washington Post, 8/1).
Albert Reece, dean of the Maryland School of Medicine, said, "Seeing the end of HIV/AIDS is still a dream," but Gallo's research is a "positive step toward seeing that dream come through." O'Malley said efforts such as this could help the U.S. "unleash the weapons of salvation" and increase Maryland's efforts to become a center of biotechnology. A Gates Foundation spokesperson was not available for comment, according to the Baltimore Sun (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 8/1).