McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster to play critical role in HIV vaccine development

Published: July 20, 2006
Ken Rosenthal

A McMaster scientist is part of the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine being established with $287 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which was announced yesterday.

Ken Rosenthal, head of the viral vaccines division of the Centre for Gene Therapeutics at McMaster University’s Michael DeGroote School of Medicine, will be working with two other world-renowned researchers to develop applications to neutralize or block HIV infection.

The Gates Foundation is providing16 grants totaling $287 million over five years to establish the Collaboration, an international network of HIV vaccine discovery groups, supported by central laboratories and data analysis facilities.

The grants will bring together more than165 investigators from 19 countries. As new potential vaccines are created, researchers will test them using standardized protocols, share data in real time, and compare results so that the most promising vaccine approaches can be quickly prioritized for further development, including clinical trials in humans.

Rosenthal will be working with David Montefiori at Duke University and Richard Koup at the U.S. National Institutes of Health vaccine research centre.

Rosenthal’s group is looking at developing a variety of delivery systems for the vaccines, including novel mucosal vaccines based on molecules that activate the innate immune system. "The mucosal delivery of vaccines is important for triggering strong and long-lasting mucosal immune responses and protection against mucosal infection. "

In addition to standardizing testing, the central laboratories will conduct research to develop new, more accurate immune monitoring tests, and will provide training and the transfer of technology to laboratories in developing countries.

Rosenthal said the funding and creation of research networks means his lab will be brought together with the world’s top vaccine researchers to collectively tackle the virus which has infected more than 40 million people worldwide.

"It’s extremely energizing and exciting for us. And, in fact, it’s crucial for us to get our work done," he told reporters.

Dr. Nicholas Hellmann, interim director of HIV, TB and reproductive health programs at the Gates Foundation, said that with worldwide HIV infections occurring at a rate of 11,000 a day, a preventative vaccine is the best long-term hope for controlling the AIDS epidemic.

"Unfortunately, developing an effective HIV vaccine has proven to be tremendously difficult, and despite the committed efforts of many researchers around the world, progress simply has not been fast enough," Hellmann said.

He said there needs to be better collaboration among investigators.

The foundation has earmarked about two-thirds of its grants to create 11 large-scale consortia that will pursue innovative ideas for designing an effective HIV vaccine.

The five remaining grants will fund central laboratories and other facilities to ensure that research results from one scientific team can be compared in a standardized fashion with those from other teams.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0