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The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Posts $150,000 Challenge on InnoCentive in Search of New Approaches to AIDS Vaccine Design

December 17, 2008

Seeking Novel Protein Design to Help Solve the Neutralizing Antibody Problem

Mass. General, MIT WALTHAM, MA, Dec 17, 2008 -- InnoCentive, Inc., the global innovation marketplace, today announced that the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), 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, has posted a $150,000 Challenge on InnoCentive's Web site. The Challenge seeks proposals for and a sample of the protein that will provide researchers with new avenues for furthering HIV vaccine design and development.

Specifically, the Challenge calls for the design of a protein -- or trimer -- that mimics the part of the HIV envelope that is first visible to the body's host defenses. In animal models and other experimental systems, this envelope trimer has triggered antibody immune responses that have successfully blocked HIV from entering cells and thus prevented HIV infection. Unfortunately, the trimer, in its natural state, is unstable and breaks down easily when it enters the body. To date, investigators have been unable to design a stable trimer that remains consistently intact in laboratory testing. The winner of this Challenge will be the researcher who successfully designs and creates a mimic of a stable functional HIV envelope trimer. IAVI will then test the trimer to see what kinds of immune responses it generates. If the trimer is sufficiently immunogenic, researchers will also be eligible for a bonus of up to $1 million dollars and/or the opportunity to pursue their research further with support from IAVI.

"A preventive vaccine is the world's best hope of ending the AIDS pandemic. By drawing upon the diverse talent pool of InnoCentive's Solvers, IAVI hopes to find an out-of-the-box solution to one of the most pressing challenges facing AIDS vaccine researchers today," said Dr. Seth Berkley, President and CEO of IAVI. "If successful, this Challenge will pave the road to designing immunogens that can elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV and bring us several steps closer to our goal of a vaccine that can prevent infection from HIV."

"With the increasing spread of HIV, it is imperative that a vaccine is developed. By connecting IAVI with our network of 165,000 Solvers, we are utilizing the power of a global community to collapse the drug-discovery timeline," said Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive, Inc. "This is one of several Challenges that have been posted on our site seeking such solutions, and to date the solutions have helped Seekers take their research to new levels. I have no doubt that this will also be the case with IAVI's Challenge."

In 2007, 33.2 million people were living with HIV worldwide. About 2.5 million people became newly infected with HIV and an estimated 2.1 million lost their lives to AIDS. On average, people require life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment seven to ten years after becoming infected with HIV. But despite recent progress in increasing access to treatment and prevention programs, HIV continues to outpace the global response to the virus with at least 70 percent of those in clinical need of ARV treatments worldwide not receiving them. IAVI estimates that the potential positive impact of HIV vaccines would be enormous, especially in the developing world.

The Challenge is being supported in part by The Rockefeller Foundation, an InnoCentive partner, as part of its Accelerating Innovation for Development Initiative, which supports the application of new innovation models to solve challenges facing poor or vulnerable populations around the world.

"Over the past decade, IAVI has catalyzed a wave of innovation in the quest for a preventive HIV vaccine," said Tara Acharya, Associate Director at the Rockefeller Foundation. "We hope that InnoCentive's global community of Solvers can help further this innovation and bring the world closer to a successful vaccine."

IAVI's Challenge represents one of several posted on InnoCentive's site seeking new drug discovery methods for potentially fatal diseases, including a Challenge posted by the TB Alliance that recently awarded two Solvers $40,000 for their solutions and a Challenge posted by Prize4Life that is seeking a biomarker for measuring disease progression in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease). The Challenge is now posted on InnoCentive until February 28, 2009 and can be found at: www.innocentive.com/servlets/account/Login.po?id=7634854.

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 24 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 Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, The John D. Evans Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the Governments of Canada, Denmark, India, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Basque Autonomous Government as well as the European Union; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Bristol-Myers Squibb, Continental Airlines, Google Inc., Henry Schein, Inc., Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer Inc and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.; leading AIDS charities such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Until There's A Cure Foundation; other private donors such as The Haas Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world. For more information, visit www.iavi.org.

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation was established by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. in 1913, and works around the world to ensure that globalization's benefits and opportunities are spread more fully in more communities. Since 2005, The Rockefeller Foundation has launched major efforts to bolster local resilience to the global climate crisis, mobilize an agricultural revolution in Africa, rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, and shape smarter, more sustainable transportation policies in the United States. It also recently commenced a $70 million Campaign for American Workers to shape new policy proposals and financial products that promote and protect savings, access to health care, and secure retirements.

About InnoCentive

Founded in 2001, InnoCentive built the first global web community for open innovation, enabling scientists, engineers, professionals and entrepreneurs to collaborate to deliver breakthrough solutions for R&D-driven organizations. InnoCentive Seekers, who collectively spend billions of dollars on R&D, submit complex problems to the InnoCentive Marketplace where more than 165,000 engineers, scientists, inventors, business people, and research organizations in more than 175 countries are invited to solve them. Solvers who deliver the most innovative solutions receive financial awards ranging up to US$1,000,000. InnoCentive's Seekers include commercial, government and non-profit organizations such as Avery Dennison, SAP, Procter & Gamble, Pendulum, Eli Lilly and Company, Janssen, Solvay and The Rockefeller Foundation. For more information on InnoCentive, go to: www.innocentive.com.

InnoCentive and InnoCentive Challenge are registered trademarks of InnoCentive, Inc. Other product or service names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

For more information contact:
Connie French
InnoCentive Marketing Manager
978-482-3300