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IAVI Encouraged by Results of AIDS Vaccine Study in Monkeys

October 19, 2000

Calls for Greater Private Sector Commitment, More Rapid Movement of Vaccine Candidates into Human Trials

NEW YORK, 19 October 2000—Seth Berkley, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), issued the following the statement in response to the publication in Science of a study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health, showing promising results in monkeys for a DNA-based AIDS vaccine augmented with interleukin-2 and immunoglobulin.

"The results of Dr. Norman Letvin's study are encouraging and we commend him, his research team, and the NIH for helping to move AIDS vaccine research forward with this study. Their findings, combined with data on other vaccine approaches and basic research studies, provide more evidence that a preventive AIDS vaccine is possible.

"Working with researchers at Merck and Co., Dr. Letvin's team has demonstrated that HIV DNA vaccines when augmented may hold real promise, but this vaccine is only one of a number of approaches that have shown promise in animal models. The only way to know if a candidate vaccine will protect humans (and for how long and against how many different HIV strains) is through human studies. Therefore, it is critically important that promising candidate vaccines move into human trials as quickly as possible."

"With 15,000 new infections every day, there is no time to spare. We must not count on any one single approach but must pursue multiple approaches using innovative vaccine designs. These approaches need to be developed in parallel rather than sequentially.

"Most of the world's vaccine-development expertise resides within private industry, so we are especially pleased that Merck has made a commitment to AIDS vaccine development. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to encourage the full participation of the private sector and all major vaccine companies in the overall effort."

Last July at the World AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, IAVI released the Scientific Blueprint 2000: Accelerating Global Efforts in AIDS Vaccine Development. This global strategic plan calls for putting 25 innovative vaccine designs into development and conducting head-to-head trials among them, leading to six to eight efficacy trials by 2007. To catalyze this agenda, IAVI has committed to establishing four to eight new vaccine development partnerships, in addition to the four already ongoing. The Blueprint calls on private industry, along with national and transnational research agencies, to pick up the challenge and fund the others.

In August of this year, an IAVI-funded research project began human trials of a candidate HIV DNA vaccine. In September, the project, led by researchers at Oxford University and the University of Nairobi, received approval from regulatory authorities in the U.K. to move a second vaccine, based on a MVA (modified vaccinia Ankara) vector, into human studies.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is an international non-profit scientific organization founded in 1996 whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. IAVI's work focuses on four areas: accelerating scientific progress, mobilizing support through advocacy and education, encouraging industrial involvement in AIDS vaccine development, and assuring global access. IAVI is a collaborating center of UNAIDS. Its major donors include the governments of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada and Ireland, the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Starr Foundation.