Partnership to develop an AIDS vaccine using a promising new technology

GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals (GSK Biologicals) and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) today announced a public-private partnership to develop an AIDS vaccine using a promising new technology.

The collaboration - the first ever in AIDS vaccine research between IAVI and a major vaccine company - will facilitate early research and development of GSK's non-human primate adenovirus vaccine vector as an enabling component of an effective AIDS vaccine.

Under the agreement, IAVI and GSK will collaborate to advance the development of the technology, which uses non-infectious vaccine vectors to stimulate specific immune responses directed against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The vectors are derived from adenoviruses, originally isolated from non-human primates, which have been engineered to be non-infectious and capable of efficiently delivering genes expressing HIV proteins to the immune system. IAVI will contribute technical expertise and funding, and GSK and IAVI researchers will form a joint R&D team.

The IAVI-GSK collaborative research will initially focus on vaccines designed to elicit immune responses against variants of HIV that circulate predominantly in Africa, although the goal of the collaboration is to develop vaccines that would be applicable worldwide. After pre-clinical evaluation, GSK Biologicals and IAVI plan to conduct Phase I clinical trials of the vaccine candidates. The partners hope this will be the first phase of a collaboration that could be much broader. Both GSK Biologicals and IAVI are committed to making any successful vaccine available as quickly as possible to developing countries at affordable prices.

"This is a new kind of partnership that involves real scientific collaboration to accelerate the development of an AIDS vaccine," said Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. "Together, GSK Biologicals and IAVI will work to develop an important approach to an effective AIDS vaccine. We hope this will be the beginning of a long- term partnership that brings together some of the most promising technologies in the field. We cannot think of a better partner, given GSK's longstanding commitment to addressing diseases of developing countries."

"IAVI is one of the leaders in the AIDS vaccine field, and we are proud to be working together to develop an effective vaccine as quickly as possible," said Jean Stephenne, President and General Manager of GSK Biologicals, the Rixensart, Belgium-based unit of GlaxoSmithKline PLC and one of the world's largest vaccine companies. "This partnership is a model for how the public and private sectors can work together. The private sector has an immense amount of knowledge, resources and expertise, and innovative partnerships such as this are essential to tackle the biggest global health challenges.

"GSK is pursuing three scientific avenues to research an effective AIDS vaccine," Stephenne added. "This partnership will help us to accelerate the evaluation of these technologies, and can be extended in the future."

Today's announcement comes in the lead up to the G8 summit in Scotland in July, where world leaders are expected to build on previous commitments to expand support for research of vaccines against AIDS, as well as other developing-country diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. Innovative financing tools proposed by the UK government include both an International Finance Facility for Immunization and advance-purchase commitments to spur private investment in vaccines against diseases of the developing world.

"An AIDS vaccine is essential in the fight against disease and extreme poverty in the developing world, particularly in Africa," said Hilary Benn, UK Secretary of State for International Development. "This agreement demonstrates the kind of collaboration between the public and private sectors that is critical for enhancing the research and development of new vaccines against the world's most devastating infectious diseases. We are proud to have been the first government to provide financial support to IAVI, and we welcome this joint venture."

The non-human primate adenovirus vector technology was derived from research conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania. The technology is owned by the University and is exclusively licensed to GSK. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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