Institute of Human Virology Receives $23.4 Million to Develop HIV/AIDS Vaccine

The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine has announced grants totaling $23.4 million from a consortium of donors to support preclinical development and phase I/II clinical trials of an HIV vaccine candidate, FLSC (Full-Length Single Chain).

Grants provided by the consortium — including $16.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $2.2 million from the U.S. Army's Military HIV Research Program, and additional funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources — will be used to determine whether the immune responses elicited by vaccine candidate are sufficiently powerful and long-lasting in humans. The research also will assess prime-boost combinations of the HIV vaccine developed by Sanofi Pasteur. Both vaccine candidates involve the use of a modified form of the outer protein envelope, which might enable the vaccines to complement each other.

The prime-boost strategy using FLSC has the potential to induce broad antibody responses to HIV-1, which bind to common HIV regions that are exposed when the virus attaches to target cells, rather than to specific characteristics of the HIV envelope protein that may not be present in all virus strains. The strategy could overcome limitations of previous vaccine candidates that responded to single strains or narrow ranges of HIV viruses.

Led by institute director Dr. Robert Gallo, who discovered the first human retroviruses and was among those who identified HIV, the research will be conducted by IHV, with help from Sanofi Pasteur and the Military HIV Research Program. "IHV's unique and promising HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate is designed to bind to the virus at the moment of infection, when many of the different strains of HIV found around the world can be neutralized," said Gallo. "We believe this mechanism is a major prerequisite for an effective HIV preventive vaccine."