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August 20, 2003


NIH Awards HIV Vaccine Development Grant to UAB, Emory University, Harvard, and Novavax, Inc.

As part of a multi-institutional $16 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), scientists in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center will work to develop and test a potential new class of HIV vaccines.

The four-and-a-half-year project is led by scientists at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) and also includes scientists at Harvard University and Novavax, Inc., which will manufacture the vaccine for testing.

The Emory component of the research program is led by Richard Compans, PhD, chair of microbiology and immunology, with Chinglai Yang, PhD, assistant professor and Sang-Moo Kang, PhD, instructor. The Emory investigators will design and produce novel HIV antigens that are effective in inducing neutralizing antibody responses to the virus. These immune responses, which could potentially prevent infection before it is established, have been difficult to obtain by other vaccine approaches.

The Emory investigators are developing novel types of virus-like particles, or VLPs, as vaccines; these VLPs closely resemble the infectious virus but are completely non-infectious. A similar approach has been used successfully to develop the vaccine currently used to prevent hepatitis B virus infection.

The new class of vaccines is being designed to induce immune responses in the mucous membranes of the reproductive and intestinal tracts ญญ the sexual route by which most cases of HIV are transmitted. The multi-institutional team will first develop and test the vaccine in animals before it is tested in humans.

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