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IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Consortium (NAC) Accelerates AIDS Vaccine Research Efforts with a Fully-Integrated and Automated Protein Crystallization Platform

June 12, 2006

NEW YORK, June 12, 2006 - The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and The Scripps Research Institute announce the availability of their own fully-integrated and automated crystallography platform, CrystalMation by RoboDesign, that enables rapid and consistent protein crystallization.

For the first time ever, leading international HIV researchers at the Neutralizing Antibody Consortium (NAC), IAVI's largest applied research program, will have exclusive access to a crystallization robot, a first for an academic research consortium, that will accelerate and optimize their HIV/AIDS vaccine development initiatives. Established by IAVI in 2002, the NAC is a highly-interactive and problem-solving scientific consortium dedicated to expediting the search for a preventive AIDS vaccine, as well as creating a new model of collaboration for the field.

Accordingly, this cutting-edge tool will dramatically improve the efficiency and speed of HIV envelope protein structural studies, thereby helping the NAC to address a major obstacle in AIDS vaccine development: the design of candidate vaccines which induce antibodies that neutralize a broad range of HIV strains.

Systematically determining the molecular crystal structures of HIV envelope proteins (also called gp120) that induce neutralizing antibodies is paramount to the pursuit of this rational vaccine design approach, but it represents a significant bottleneck in the overall effort. Investigators must study and test a very large number of structural iterations in order to build upon a rational design plan that incorporates all of these elements into a vaccine.  Done manually, this process is repetitive, slow and prone to errors because of the large number of molecular forms and conditions that must be screened before obtaining diffraction quality crystals. In fact, it can take up to two years to arrive at a crystal structure suitable for examining a single protein in detail by X-ray diffraction.

With dedicated access to the automated CrystalMation platform, the NAC can overcome these limitations, thereby accelerating the vaccine design effort. In addition to dramatically improving the efficiency and speed of HIV protein crystal analysis, the robot will enable the NAC to easily collect, collate and mine all the information gathered during the crystallization trials. In fact, the NAC estimates that the platform will enable the Consortium and its collaborators to examine 21,000 protein crystals along with the set-up and analysis of approximately 2 million experiments in two years.

About IAVI
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Founded in 1996 and operational in 23 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates.  IAVI's financial and in-kind supporters include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The New York Community Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation; the Governments of the Basque Country, Canada, Denmark, European Union, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Continental Airlines, DHL and Pfizer; leading AIDS charities such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Crusaid, Deutsche AIDS-Stiftung, and Until There's A Cure Foundation; other private donors such as the Haas Charitable Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world.

About The Scripps Research Institute
The Scripps Research Institute, headquartered in La Jolla, California, in 18 buildings on 40 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations. It stands at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its research into immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel.
Scripps Florida, a 364,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art biomedical research facility, will be built in Palm Beach County. The facility will focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Palm Beach County and the State of Florida have provided start-up economic packages for development, building, staffing, and equipping the campus. Scripps Florida now operates with approximately 160 scientists, technicians, and administrative staff at 40,000 square-foot lab facilities on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Jupiter.