01 October 2008

Aids vaccine institute to open

A new Aids vaccine research centre dedicated to solving one of the stickiest problems holding back development of such a vaccine will open in California.

A new Aids vaccine research centre dedicated to solving one of the stickiest problems holding back development of such a vaccine will open in California, researchers announced recently.

The $30 million (about R250 million) facility is a joint venture by the non-profit Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and the International Aids Vaccine Initiative.

"The world needs an Aids vaccine to turn the tide on this devastating pandemic," Dr Richard Lerner, president of the Scripps Research Institute, said in a statement.

"We are confident that this centre will facilitate more productive exchanges among researchers and stimulate new ideas that will help to accelerate Aids vaccine science."

The centre at Scripps will be dedicated to one important aspect of making a vaccine - stimulating the immune system to produce neutralising antibodies capable of incapacitating HIV, the Aids virus.

No cure as yet
Cocktails of drugs can control the virus but there is no cure. Efforts to make a vaccine have failed, in part because HIV attacks some of the cells usually activated by immunisation, and in part because no vaccine has been able to stimulate antibodies to help kill the virus.

"Finding a way to elicit neutralising antibodies against HIV is the biggest challenge facing Aids vaccine researchers today," said Dr Seth Berkley, president and chief executive officer of IAVI.

The institute will recruit biologists, virologists, chemists and immunologists to work together in the lab and run tests in human volunteers.

"This reinvigorated approach will also make it easier for us to recruit and mentor the young scientists who represent the future of HIV/Aids vaccine research," said Dennis Burton, who works at Scripps and IAVI.

The centre is not yet built and no date has been announced for its opening. – (Reuters Health)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre
Aids vaccine decades away

September 2008


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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