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IAVI calls for crash programme to develop AIDS vaccine

November 12, 1999

Praises UK Prime Minister Blair’s 14 million pound grant
for AIDS Vaccine Development as Important Step in Addressing
"Global State of Crisis on HIV/AIDS"


DURBAN, South Africa, 12 November 1999—The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) applauded the United Kingdom’s 14 million pound grant to speed the development of a globally accessible AIDS vaccine and called upon other world leaders to join in a crash program to achieve that goal in the shortest time possible. Prime Minister Tony Blair was scheduled to announce the Department for International Development (DFID) grant to IAVI at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Durban. The peoples of the Commonwealth account for 30% of the total world population but more than 60% of the global prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Echoing the call on November 10 by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Commonwealth Health Professionals Associations for the declaration of a Global State of Crisis on HIV/AIDS, IAVI said that the development and deployment of an affordable vaccine represents the world’s best hope for stemming the pandemic. IAVI’s work focuses on vaccines that target strains of the virus present in developing countries, where there is little access to treatment.

"Smallpox was eradicated thanks to a vaccine," said Victor Zonana, IAVI’s vice president for public affairs. "Polio will soon follow. We welcome Prime Minister Blair’s commitment to AIDS vaccine development and call upon other world leaders to join the effort. Without political leadership and adequate resources, a vaccine against AIDS will continue to elude us."

IAVI said it is encouraged by other signs of leadership within the Commonwealth, including the creation of SAAVI (the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative) and the declaration by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the need for a "mission-like" program to develop an AIDS vaccine. Other Commonwealth countries have also played critical roles in the global effort by hosting clinical trials for AIDS vaccine candidates. IAVI also praised the Commonwealth Medical Association for its call for the declaration of a "Global State of Crisis on HIV/AIDS" and for its recognition that AIDS vaccine development must be part of the world’s HIV prevention agenda.

IAVI’s Scientific Blueprint for AIDS Vaccine Development, a global strategic plan to speed the development of a vaccine, estimates that a crash program to develop a preventive vaccine would cost between US$350 million and $500 million over the next seven years. IAVI, an international non-profit organization, has raised approximately US$75 million since it was formed in 1996.

IAVI’s work focuses on three areas: accelerating scientific progress, mobilizing support through advocacy and education, and encouraging industrial participation in AIDS vaccine development. IAVI’s work emphasizes vaccines that would be most useful developing countries. Such vaccines would be inexpensive to manufacture, easy to transport and administer, stable under field conditions and require few, if any, follow-up inoculations.

IAVI’s first two Vaccine Development Partnerships link researchers in the U.S. and South Africa, and the U.K. and Kenya, respectively. The U.S./South Africa partnership is developing a vaccine candidate based on the sub-type virus revalent in South Africa, while the U.K./Kenya partnership is working on a vaccine candidate that would target the East African sub-type A.

The Vaccine Development Partnerships include unique intellectual property agreements to ensure that vaccines resulting from IAVI-sponsored research will be made available in developing countries at a reasonable price.

"Priority vaccines should be simultaneously available in the North and South," said Dr. Seth Berkley, M.D., IAVI’s president. "Developing countries should not be forced to wait 10 or 15 years for an AIDS vaccine to trickle down to them."

IAVI expects to launch three to four new Vaccine Development Partnerships, each one testing a different promising vaccine concept, over the next several years. IAVI seeks to maximize the number of promising vaccine candidates in clinical trials, believing that the simultaneous testing of a wide variety of different approaches will yield the fastest path to a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The Commonwealth Medical Association will host a press conference at CHOGM on Saturday, November 13, at 11 a.m., in the Press Centre’s Aliwal Suite. Representatives from AIDS 2000, IAVI and the Association of Commonwealth Universities will discuss the Global State of Crisis as well as efforts to accelerate vaccine development.