LA JOLLA (CNS) - The Scripps Research Institute announced Wednesday that a $77 million federal grant will fund a seven-year project to develop an HIV vaccine.
The grant was awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health.
"With 33 million infected individuals worldwide, an HIV vaccine is urgently needed to slow and eventually eliminate new infections," said Scripps Research President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Marletta. "I am excited that the institute's proven track record in fundamental discoveries applicable to vaccine development will be brought to bear on this most important and compelling problem."
Scripps Research professor Dennis Burton said AIDS drugs have extended the life span of people afflicted with the disease, but a vaccine is necessary to truly eliminate the threat of infection.
HIV causes AIDS by binding to, entering, and ultimately killing immunity cells necessary to fight infections by common bacteria and other pathogens. As HIV depletes the body of those cells, the immune system fails and common afflictions become potentially lethal.
An effective HIV vaccine would introduce antibodies that would circulate through the blood to track down and bind to the virus, preventing infection of immune cells. Antibodies produced by the human body to fight HIV are ineffective, according to the institute.
Research at TSRI and elsewhere has found some rare antibodies that can fight the disease.