The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday announced 16 grants totaling $287 million to fund the development of an HIV vaccine, the New York Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 7/20). The grants will be distributed over five years to 16 scientific teams in 19 countries. The grants aim to create an international network to find a vaccine by pooling resources and fostering collaboration on efforts worldwide (Doughton, Seattle Times, 7/20). Under the grant agreements, the 165 researchers receiving funding will be required to collaborate and share the results of their research (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 7/20). In addition, the researchers may patent their findings as long as they make their vaccines available at low costs to people in developing countries (Sternberg, USA Today, 7/20). The funding brings the foundation's donations to HIV vaccine efforts to $528 million (New York Times, 7/20).
The international network will focus on four main goals: creating a vaccine to prevent initial infection; developing a vaccine that generates more aggressive immune responses to kill infected cells; establishing standard criteria to measure progress; and creating a secure Web site to share data (Wall Street Journal, 7/20). Eleven of the grants will focus on creating consortia to "pursue a broad range of innovative strategies for designing vaccine candidates to trigger immune responses" (Gates Foundation release, 7/19). The remaining five grants will go toward creating five central laboratories -- including three lab networks that measure immune response to vaccine candidates -- to foster collaboration. The three lab networks measuring immune responses will be located at NIH's Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center, Duke University and the University of Washington. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center will serve as a statistical and data management center, and a site in Germany will serve as a research specimen repository (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 7/20). The Bumpers Vaccine Research Center will receive the largest grant totaling $33 million (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/20). Other grant recipients include University College London, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland (Fox, Reuters, 7/19). The Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and New York University also are included in the grants (New York Times, 7/20). The grants will go to researchers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Zambia (Gates Foundation release, 7/19).
Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, praised the Gates Foundation for the move but said more funding is still needed for HIV vaccine research. He estimated that about $1 billion annually would be required to move the research forward. Nicholas Hellmann -- acting director of the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB and reproductive health program -- said that it might take about 10 years to develop a successful HIV vaccine (Gordon Blankinship, AP/Washington Post, 7/20). Hutchinson Center biostatistician Steve Self said the requirement to share data "increases the pace of discovery enormously rather than waiting for the process of writing formal journal articles, waiting for them to be published and (confirmed) by other labs" (Wall Street Journal, 7/20).
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