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Institute Of Human Virology Receives $15M Grant For Research On HIV Vaccine

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HIV Vaccine

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine a five-year, $15 million grant to develop a potential HIV vaccine, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced Tuesday, the Washington Post reports (Rein, Washington Post, 8/1).

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According to the AP/Forbes, the grant is part of the Gates Foundation's Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an international networkof researchers focused on developing a safe and effective vaccine. Thegrant will support a public-private partnership among the institute, Wyeth and Profectus BioSciences. Profectus was created in 2003 to develop and commercialize technology developed by the institute, the AP/Forbes reports.

DaveWilkins, Chief Operating Officer at the institute, said the first grantpayment, which will be about $2.1 million, is expected to be availablein two or three weeks. It will be used for equipment maintenance,salaries of about 10 to 15 researchers and supplies, according to the AP/Forbes (Witte, AP/Forbes,7/31). Robert Gallo, founder and director of the institute, said thathe expects the grant to expand his research on a possible HIV vaccinethat he has tested successfully on monkeys.

The vaccinecandidate works by intercepting the virus before it can enter thebody's cells and attack the immune system's response to an infection,the Post reports. It would give antibodies the bestchance of working against the various strains of HIV, Gallo said at apress conference in Annapolis, Md. The vaccine candidate also has thepotential to eliminate HIV from infected cells, according to Gallo. "Wehave a vaccine candidate that we think is extremely interesting andunique in its properties," Gallo said. He added that he hopes to beginclinical trials next year (Washington Post, 8/1).

AlbertReece, dean of the Maryland School of Medicine, said, "Seeing the endof HIV/AIDS is still a dream," but Gallo's research is a "positive steptoward seeing that dream come through." O'Malley said efforts such asthis could help the U.S. "unleash the weapons of salvation" andincrease Maryland's efforts to become a center of biotechnology. AGates Foundation spokesperson was not available for comment, accordingto the Baltimore Sun (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 8/1).

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