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India's Department of Biotechnology and IAVI Forge Partnership to Develop "Next Generation" Vaccine Candidates

May 02, 2007

New Indian Medicinal Chemistry Programme towards Advancement of Novel Neutralizing Antibody Approach

(NEW DELHI AND NEW YORK - May 2, 2007) — The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative signed an agreement today to address a major obstacle in AIDS vaccine development: the design of candidate vaccines to elicit neutralizing antibodies against HIV. A new Indian Medicinal Chemistry Programme, co-sponsored and co-funded by IAVI and the Department of Biotechnology, will comprise top Indian and U.S. scientists tasked with accelerating the pace of AIDS vaccine discovery and developing creative concepts for the next generation of AIDS vaccines.

IAVI Board Member and Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Mr. Kapil Sibal said: "Vaccine research is so critical that the Health Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry have joined hands to provide the effort the support it needs."

"This new partnership will broaden ongoing efforts in India to find an AIDS vaccine," said Seth Berkley, CEO and President of IAVI. "With our long-term Indian collaborators, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through the National AIDS Control Organisation and the Indian Council of Medical Research, IAVI has successfully conducted two Phase I clinical trials in the country. Through this new agreement, we will continue to tap some of the best minds in biotechnology to create new paradigms for AIDS vaccine design."

"India's Department of Biotechnology is delighted to be a part of the global search for an efficacious AIDS vaccine," stated Professor Maharaj K. Bhan, Secretary, DBT. "Only through these kinds of biotechnology ventures, involving international collaborations and the sharing of scientific knowledge, can we hope to solve the complex biomedical problems of our times."

The Indian Programme will complement the work of IAVI's Neutralizing Antibody Consortium (NAC), a team of internationally recognized scientists working on the neutralizing antibody challenge. Researchers believe an ideal AIDS vaccine must evoke an antibody response that can block HIV from entering healthy cells, as well as reduce the amount of viral dissemination through a cell-mediated immune response to HIV-infected cells. Yet today, virtually all current vaccine candidates in the pipeline are based on cell-mediated immune responses alone, failing to target the second critical arm of the human immune system.

"DBT brings enormous strengths in peptide and protein design to this collaboration with IAVI," said Dennis Burton, Scientific Director of the NAC. "We believe these strengths are crucial to the rational HIV vaccine design strategy being pursued by the Neutralizing Antibody Consortium."

The first component of the DBT-IAVI Programme will consist of a collaboration of principal investigators from different academic research laboratories to design novel HIV antigens. The investigators include Professor Virander S. Chauhan of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi; Professor Raghavan Varadarajan of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Dr. Stephen Kaminsky of IAVI's AIDS Vaccine Development Laboratory, New York; and Dr. Philip Dawson of The Scripps Research Institute, California. IAVI and DBT may select additional principal investigators, contract researchers, or partners in India to participate in the Programme, and will discuss ways to build infrastructure for subsequent HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate evaluation.

At a later stage, based on their initial research and vaccine design concepts, both partners expect to work with an Indian manufacturer to assist with high throughput synthesis, antigen chemical characterization and potency evaluation of proposed AIDS vaccine candidates.

"This is a most welcome and truly collaborative effort," stated Berkley. "Public, private and non-profit entities are increasingly working together to come up with innovative biotechnology solutions to end the AIDS crisis."

About DBT
The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was established under the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology in 1986 to give impetus to the development of the field of modern biology and biotechnology in India. Significant achievements include the growth and application of biotechnology in the broad areas of medical biotechnology and health care, agriculture, animal sciences, environment, and industry. DBT has more than 5000 research publications, 4000 post-doctoral students, several technologies transferred to industries and patents (including US patents) to its credit. Initiatives have been taken to promote transgenic research in plants with emphasis on pest and disease resistance, nutritional quality, silk-worm genome analysis, molecular biology of human genetic disorders, brain research, plant genome research, development, validation and commercialisation of diagnostic kits and vaccines for communicable diseases, food biotechnology, biodiversity conservation and bioprospecting, setting up of micropropagation parks and biotechnology based development for SC/ST, rural areas, women and for different States. Necessary guidelines for transgenic plants, recombinant vaccines and drugs have also been evolved. A strong base of indigenous capabilities has been created. Click here for further information.

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 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, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, 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.), Continental Airlines, Google Inc., Merck & Co., Inc. and Pfizer 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.