Key Initiatives

HIV Vaccine Development

Since the discovery of AIDS more than three decades ago, close to 40 million lives have been lost to this devastating disease. According to a 2014 World Health Organization fact sheet, another 35 million people are living with HIV and more than 5,000 people worldwide become infected each day. 

Progress in HIV preventative interventions—including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and the first demonstration in humans that a vaccine can prevent HIV infection—has generated hope that we may see an AIDS-free generation and an end of this epidemic.  While licensure of an effective vaccine may yet be years in the making, FNIH’s portfolio of HIV/AIDS research projects is working today to expedite achievement of this goal.

The Comprehensive T Cell Vaccine Immune Monitoring Consortium (CTVIMC) is a key component of the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery (CAVD). The CAVD is a “big science” approach funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an effective vaccine against HIV/AIDS. This collaborative approach brings together a critical mass of HIV vaccine researchers focused on different aspects of HIV vaccine discovery and illustrates the potential for NIH to collaborate with philanthropic organizations to achieve mutual goals. This effort is led by Dr. Richard Koup, Chief of the Immunology Laboratory at the Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center (VRC), at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The CTVIMC serves as the central cellular immune monitoring facility for the CAVD consortia that pursue a range of innovative strategies to design an effective HIV vaccine.

In 2010, the CTVIMC completed its first five year period of performance and achieved the goal of providing standardized T cell assays for both non-human primate and clinical vaccine trials to facilitate the comparison of efficacy data from different vaccine development efforts across the CAVD (comparing apples to apples). This success resulted in a second five-year, $16.8 million award administered by the Foundation for the NIH beginning in 2011. Fourteen investigators collaborate to improve cellular immune monitoring techniques, with three central clinical laboratories and two non-human primate laboratories that conduct assays to support HIV/AIDS vaccine development.

The Development of a Second Generation Broadly Neutralizing Antibody Product to Prevent HIV-1 Infection in Humans began in 2011, and is another CAVD sponsored collaboration (BNAbs). Advances in the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV have raised new opportunities to prevent infection through the administration of antibodies that inhibit activation of diverse strains of the virus. The aim of this project is to optimize an exceptionally broadly neutralizing antibody isolated by researchers at the Vaccine Research Center. Increasing the potency and half-life of the VRC01 antibody could improve its efficacy as a passive immunization therapeutic. Results from these studies may also provide insights into humoral control of HIV, contributing to vaccine design strategies. Dr. John Mascola, the Director of the VRC, serves as the Principal Investigator on this project, with collaborators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the University of Minnesota.