Scripps Research Institute Wins $77 Million to Develop AIDS Vaccine Center

The Scripps Research Institute has been awarded a grant expected to total more than $77 million from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The new seven-year project will focus on developing a vaccine against HIV and the disease it causes, AIDS. "Although AIDS drugs have extended the lives of many, an effective HIV vaccine could truly eliminate the threat of HIV in both developing and developed countries," said Scripps Research Professor Dennis Burton, a prominent HIV expert who will lead the new center. "We look forward to making significant progress toward this goal in the coming years." The Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID) will conduct multidisciplinary research into immune responses that prevent infection or control the virus in infected individuals. The team will also general vaccine components to induce such immune responses and provide broad protection against HIV infection. Under the auspices of the new grant, the team will conduct research on antibodies and B cells, the cells that make antibodies. This work will guide the development of immunogens - substances that evoke an immune response - capable of eliciting protective antibodies to HIV. Additionally, the scientists will focus on studying CD4+ T cells in an attempt to harness these cells' direct antiviral activity, as well as their ability to help B cells produce antibodies. "We will work toward an HIV vaccine based on a deep understanding of the critical attributes of immune responses that provide protection against AIDS viruses, through these two focused and highly integrative efforts," said Burton. In addition to Burton as Director, the Center's scientific leadership includes: Rafi Ahmed of Emory University; Michel Nussenzweig of The Rockefeller University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Bruce Walker of The Ragon Institute; and Ian Wilson of The Scripps Research Institute. Others working on the project include Dan Barouch of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Shane Crotty of La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology; Adam Godzik of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute; Daniel Kaufmann of The Ragon Institute; Julie McElrath of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Bali Pulendran and Guido Silvestri of Emory University; Chris Scanlan of Oxford University; and Joan Allmaras, Sal Butera, Bill Schief, Andrew Ward, Rich Wyatt, and Jiang Zhu of The Scripps Research Institute.