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Ugandan Government and International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Sign Agreement to Accelerate Testing of AIDS Vaccines

July 30, 2001

Kampala, Uganda, 30 August 2001 -- The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Government of the Republic of Uganda today signed a partnership agreement aimed at accelerating the development and testing of preventive AIDS vaccines for Uganda and the world.

"Uganda has been a leader in accelerating prevention efforts for AIDS and was the site of the first AIDS vaccine trial in Africa. We are proud to be continuing to work towards finding a vaccine for Uganda and the world," said Minister of Health, Jim Katagugu Muhwezi. He added, "We are pleased to be working with IAVI on this most important project, which we hope will help to bring an end to the epidemic."

"We are excited that the Ugandan government has chosen to collaborate with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative," said Dr. Seth Berkley, President and Chief Executive Officer of IAVI. "Uganda has shown genuine leadership and commitment in confronting this epidemic," added Berkley, who was assigned to serve as the Ugandan Ministry of Health epidemiologist from 1987 to 1990 while working for the Carter Center.

"Uganda is at the forefront of building effective responses to the AIDS epidemic. That is why we approached IAVI to form a partnership and work on a vaccine, our best hope of ending the cycle of HIV infections here in Uganda," said Crispus Kiyonga, former Ugandan Health and Finance Minister, who has just been named chair of the transitional working group for the establishment of the Global AIDS and Health Fund.

The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) will work with IAVI to evaluate promising AIDS vaccine candidates that are applicable for use in Uganda. The partners will also work to strengthen the capacity of Ugandan scientists to play an active role in vaccine research and development and to support efforts to strengthen clinical trial infrastructure as preparation for taking the most promising candidate vaccine into efficacy trials as soon as possible.

Uganda has made great strides in AIDS prevention in recent years; however it is estimated that more than 800,000 men women and children in Uganda are infected with HIV and that almost two million children have been orphaned by AIDS. The epidemic is affecting every aspect of national life and development. "Every day hundreds more Ugandans are infected with HIV," Berkley said. "We cannot afford to delay the search for an effective vaccine."

One of the partnership's first actions will be the further testing, evaluation and refinement of two vaccines used as a pair in a prime-boost regimen -a naked DNA prime followed by a boost with DNA in a Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vector, both of which aim to elicit a strong cellular immune response to HIV. Both vaccines were developed by the U.K.'s Medical Research Council at Oxford University working with researchers from the University of Nairobi in Kenya and have been tested and found safe in volunteers in the UK and Kenya. The vaccines are based on subtype A of HIV, the strain of the virus most common in East Africa.

A third novel vaccine, developed by the University of Maryland's Institute of Human Virology in the U.S., is planned for later Phase I testing in the U.S. and Uganda. This vaccine, which is also based on subtype A and uses weakened Salmonella bacteria as a delivery system. This orally administered vaccine is potentially inexpensive and easy to produce and administer, important characteristics for widespread access in developing countries. This vaccine also has the potential advantage of stimulating mucosal immunity. It will also be tested with the MVA boost. The development of all three of these vaccine candidates is being funded by IAVI.

Clinical and research work for the vaccines will be carried out a special AIDS Vaccine Trial Unit which is being built at UVRI with support from IAVI.

"Until now, most AIDS vaccines have been made from strains circulating in the North, specifically, subtype B. The vaccines we will be working on with IAVI begin to address the great need for vaccines designed specifically for Africa," said Dr. Pontiano Kaleebu of UVRI, the Principal Investigator of the project.

Uganda has been a leader in AIDS vaccine development. In 1999, it was the site of the first AIDS vaccine trial in Africa when the Aventis-Pasteur ALVAC AIDS vaccine candidate was given to 40 healthy volunteers. A number of other preventive AIDS vaccine trials are planned for Uganda.

An affordable vaccine represents our best hope for ending the AIDS epidemic in Uganda and the world," said Wayne Koff, IAVI's Senior Vice President for Research and Development. "We cannot afford to delay the testing of promising vaccine candidates. The world must move many promising vaccine candidates into testing as quickly as possible. IAVI is pleased to be one of several organizations working with Uganda to find a safe, effective, preventive vaccine for AIDS."

"We are excited to be working with IAVI to accelerate AIDS vaccine development. Uganda is at the forefront of AIDS vaccine work in Africa. IAVI has its strengths and we have our strengths. Together we believe that we can reach our goal of a preventive AIDS vaccine for Uganda and the world," said Dr. Sylvester Sempala, Director of UVRI.

Traditionally vaccines have taken 15 or more years after development to trickle down to developing countries. Under the terms of the partnership and IAVI's agreements with vaccine developers, any successful vaccine that is evaluated in the IAVI-Uganda program will be made available as quickly as possible and at reasonable prices to Ugandans.

Minister Muhwezi added, "Uganda is leading the way in the search for an AIDS vaccine for Africa. It is important that the fruits of our work here be available to Ugandans as soon as a successful vaccine is created. Our agreement with IAVI ensures that a successful vaccine from this partnership will be made available in our country as soon as possible."

About UVRI: The Uganda Virus Research Institute is a Government Institution under the Ministry of Health whose broad mission is to carry out scientific research concerning communicable diseases, especially viral diseases of public health importance and to advise Government on strategies for the control and prevention. UVRI currently has six departments, the major ones involved in HIV vaccine research are the departments of Virology, Immunology and Epidemiology and Data management. UVRI was one of the centers involved in conducting the first HIV-1 vaccine trial in Africa. UVRI is also currently a WHO accredited National and Inter-country polio reference laboratory and a WHO regional measles reference laboratory. UVRI also serves as a WHO primary laboratory for HIV-1 isolation and characterization. The institute is one of the centers in Africa proposed as reference and training centers for the newly established African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP).

About IAVI: 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: creating global demand for AIDS vaccines through advocacy and education; accelerating scientific progress; encouraging industrial involvement in AIDS vaccine development; and assuring global access to a vaccine once it is developed. IAVI is a collaborating center of UNAIDS. IAVI's major supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Rockefeller, Sloan and Starr Foundations; the World Bank; and the governments of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada, Ireland and the United States. For more information visit: http://www.iavi.org.