March 20, 2001
Program Aimed at Fighting AIDS in Developing Countries
NEW YORK and CAMBRIDGE, Masssachussetts, 20 March 2001—In continuing efforts to curb the global spread of AIDS, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Therion Biologics will collaborate as new partners to develop prophylactic AIDS vaccines for developing countries, specifically India. The unique partnership brings together Therion’s demonstrated expertise in vaccine technology, IAVI’s development capabilities and Indian scientists focused in AIDS research.
Under terms of the collaboration, IAVI will fully fund Therion’s work in designing, engineering and manufacturing a novel AIDS vaccine specific for the strain of HIV (subtype C) common to India. Pending necessary approvals from appropriate regulatory agencies, IAVI intends to accelerate this vaccine into clinical trials. The announcement follows yesterday’s signing of an agreement between IAVI and India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for a commitment to develop and evaluate preventive AIDS vaccines for use in the country.
“Despite tremendous pharmaceutical advances for the treatment of AIDS, modern health practitioners worldwide still do not have the necessary medical tools to end the rampant spread of HIV,” said Seth Berkley, M.D., President and CEO of IAVI. “Vaccines resulting from this collaboration will not only benefit the population of India, but also have the potential to aid many other developing nations. We believe Therion will be a valuable partner in these efforts. We look forward to bringing the company’s expertise in vaccine development to bear on our global AIDS research.”
“An AIDS vaccine for the world's poorest countries is an international public good that isn't likely to happen without innovative public-private collaborations such as this one,” Dr. Berkley added. “IAVI seeks to maximize the number of promising vaccine candidates in clinical trials. This is the sixth AIDS vaccine candidate IAVI has selected for fast-track development under our ‘social venture capital’ model. Unlike traditional venture capitalists, who seek equity in return for their investments, IAVI seeks a commitment that a successful vaccine will be provided to the poor in developing countries at a reasonable price.”
“IAVI’s selection of Therion for this AIDS initiative illustrates our international leadership in vaccine technology, as well as our strong track record in developing pox virus-based vaccine products,” stated Dennis Panicali, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Therion Biologics. “Further, the collaboration underscores our commitment to advancing AIDS prevention worldwide. We believe this is an important opportunity to use our technology to aid India and other developing countries so affected by the AIDS pandemic.”
Specifically, Therion will develop for IAVI a preventive AIDS vaccine based on the MVA pox virus vector. Preclinical research, as well as the recent entry of the first MVA-HIV vaccine into clinical testing as part of the IAVI/Oxford/Kenya partnership, has already demonstrated the promise of recombinant MVA vaccines expressing antigens from HIV. Unlike most other AIDS vaccines in development, however, which are based on the HIV subtype B prevalent in the U.S. and Europe, the Therion/IAVI vaccine will be based on the HIV subtype C isolate from India. By combining MVA vectors with subtype C HIV antigens, Therion aims to apply its vaccine technology for rapid, cost-effective development and manufacture of an India-specific AIDS vaccine.
Background on HIV & AIDS
According to the UNAIDS and World Health Organization’s December 2000 report, 36.1 million people in the world are currently living with AIDS or HIV. Of those 36.1 million, 5.8 million are residents of South and Southeast Asia, with more than 3.7 million people affected in India alone. The report also notes that AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. With more than 95% of all new HIV infections in developing countries, AIDS is among the most serious threats not only to global health, but also to global development.
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is an international nonprofit 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: creating global demand for AIDS vaccines through advocacy and education; accelerating scientific progress; encouraging industrial involvement in AIDS vaccine development; and assuring global access. Two IAVI–sponsored vaccines developed for Africa are already in clinical trials, and IAVI is committed to moving other candidate vaccines for developing countries into clinical trials as quickly as possible. IAVI is a UNAIDS collaborating center. Its major donors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and the Starr Foundation; the governments of the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Canada and Ireland; and the World Bank.
Therion Biologics Corporation is engaged in the development of therapeutic vaccines for cancer and preventive vaccines for AIDS. Currently, Therion has two lead products for colorectal and prostate cancer, ALVAC-CEA/B7.1 and PROSTVAC-VF respectively, moving into pivotal clinical trials in the next two years. The company also has a broad pipeline of vaccines in early clinical development for treatment of major cancers, including breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma and other solid tumors. Therion’s partners include Aventis Pasteur, the National Cancer Institute and a network of leading clinical institutions around the world. Therion is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts