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NIAID Awards $16.8 Million Grant to AlphaVax for HIV Vaccine Development

October 22, 2003

Research Triangle Park, N.C.-based biotechnology company AlphaVax on Monday announced that it will receive an additional $16.8 million in National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant funds to advance the development of the firm's experimental HIV vaccine, the Raleigh News & Observer reports (Ranii, Raleigh News & Observer, 10/21). Last month, NIAID awarded $81 million in five-year grants to four biotech companies -- including AlphaVax -- as part of NIAID's HIV Vaccine Design and Development Teams program, which is a public-private partnership aimed at accelerating HIV vaccine development. AlphaVax's vaccine uses a nonreplicating alphavirus to deliver the genes to make four HIV proteins. The genes are from HIV strains present in Southern Africa. In animal models, the vaccine induced strong cellular and antibody immune system responses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/30). The new grant will be used to add more genes to the vaccine, which could cause a more "potent" immune response, the News & Observer reports. AlphaVax in July started clinical trials involving 48 healthy participants to test the safety and immune potential of its HIV vaccine (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/21). Michael Pensiero, who oversees NIAID's HIV/AIDS contracts and grants, said that AlphaVax received the grants in part because their vaccine technology is "novel, as well as promising," according to the News & Observer. He added that the agency "wants to see a variety of different approaches" for an HIV vaccine (Raleigh News & Observer, 10/21).

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