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Government of India and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) have signed an agreement to address a major obstacle in AIDS vaccine development

[Updated On: 08/19/2008]

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) have signed an agreement to address a major obstacle in AIDS vaccine development: the design of candidate vaccines to elicit neutralizing antibodies against HIV.

A new Indian Medicinal Chemistry Program, co-sponsored and co-funded by IAVI and the Department of Biotechnology, will comprise top Indian and US scientists tasked with accelerating the pace of AIDS vaccine discovery and developing creative concepts for the next generation of AIDS vaccines.

IAVI Board Member and Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Mr Kapil Sibal said, ?Vaccine research is so critical that the Health Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry have joined hands to provide the effort the support it needs.?

The first component of the DBT?IAVI Program will consist of a collaboration of principal investigators from different academic research laboratories to design novel HIV antigens. The investigators include Professor Virander S Chauhan of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, New Delhi; Professor Raghavan Varadarajan of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Dr Stephen Kaminsky of IAVI's AIDS Vaccine Development Laboratory, New York; and Dr Philip Dawson of The Scripps Research Institute, California. IAVI and DBT may select additional principal investigators, contract researchers, or partners in India to participate in the Program, and will discuss ways to build infrastructure for subsequent HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate evaluation.

At a later stage, based on their initial research and vaccine design concepts, both partners expect to work with an Indian manufacturer to assist with high throughput synthesis, antigen chemical characterization and potency evaluation of proposed AIDS vaccine candidates.

?This new partnership will broaden ongoing efforts in India to find an AIDS vaccine,? said Mr Seth Berkley, CEO and President of IAVI. ?With our long-term Indian collaborators, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare through the National AIDS Control Organization and the Indian Council of Medical Research, IAVI has successfully conducted two phase I clinical trials in the country. Through this new agreement, we will continue to tap some of the best minds in biotechnology to create new paradigms for AIDS vaccine design.?

?India's Department of Biotechnology is delighted to be a part of the global search for an efficacious AIDS vaccine,? stated Professor Maharaj K Bhan, Secretary, DBT. ?Only through these kinds of biotechnology ventures, involving international collaborations and the sharing of scientific knowledge, can we hope to solve the complex biomedical problems of our times.?

The Indian Program will complement the work of IAVI's Neutralizing Antibody Consortium (NAC), a team of internationally recognized scientists working on the neutralizing antibody challenge. Researchers believe an ideal AIDS vaccine must evoke an antibody response that can block HIV from entering healthy cells, as well as reduce the amount of viral dissemination through a cell-mediated immune response to HIV-infected cells. However, today, virtually all the current vaccine candidates in the pipeline are based on cell-mediated immune responses alone, failing to target the second critical arm of the human immune system.

"DBT brings enormous strengths in peptide and protein design to this collaboration with IAVI," said Dr Dennis Burton, Scientific Director of the NAC. "We believe these strengths are crucial to the rational HIV vaccine design strategy being pursued by the Neutralizing Antibody Consortium."