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New Plan To Speed AIDS Vaccine Development Released

IAVI Wins New Financial Commitments from Bill Gates, UK Government, and World Bank; Implementation of "Scientific Blueprint" to begin immediately

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bernadette Simmons
InterScience, in London
Phone: 011.44(0).171.331.0331
Mark Chataway
InterScience, in London
Phone: 011.44(0).171.331.0331

GENEVA -- The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) unveiled a new global scientific strategy to accelerate AIDS vaccine development, and said it will begin work on the plan with existing resources and newly announced grants from the William H. Gates Foundation, the World Bank and the Government of the United Kingdom.

IAVI's Scientific Blueprint for AIDS Vaccine Development was released by the two-year old nonprofit scientific and educational organization on the opening day of the 12th International Conference on AIDS. The report synthesizes months of consultations with scientific, industrial, political and community leaders in developing and industrialized countries, and includes an analysis of ongoing AIDS vaccine research and development efforts.

"The World Is Not On Track"

"The world is not on track to meet the goal of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine in the next decade," said Dr. Margaret Johnston, IAVI's Vice President for Scientific Affairs. "This program will not only put us back on track; it will put us on a fast track."

IAVI's Scientific Blueprint outlines a global strategy to accelerate product development and human testing, an approach referred to as "thoughtful empiricism." The report notes that multiple efficacy trials of different vaccine candidates will be necessary to achieve success.

Complementing Existing Vaccine R & D Efforts

"IAVI's approach is designed to complement, not compete with, existing AIDS vaccine efforts, which have increasingly emphasized basic research," Dr. Seth Berkley, IAVI's president, said. "In addition, our approach is uniquely geared to the needs of developing countries," he added.

The Scientific Blueprint recommends creation of three to six International Product Development Teams. These teams will speed the testing of promising vaccines in epidemic locations, foster partnerships between scientists in industrialized and developing countries, and help ensure that people in developing countries benefit from AIDS vaccines once they are developed.

At least 30.6 million individuals around the world are infected with HIV, and another 16,000 become newly infected every day, according to UNAIDS. Over 90% live in developing countries, where there is little access to life-prolonging antiviral treatments.

Berkley said the plan outlined in the Scientific Blueprint would cost approximately US $350 million to $500 million above current vaccine research and development expenditures over the next nine years. "The budget we've outlined is not trivial, but it is minuscule compared to the $18 billion the world spends annually on AIDS treatment, prevention and research," he said.

Berkley stressed most of the new work envisioned by the Scientific Blueprint would be shouldered not by IAVI but by industrial partners, venture capitalists, international agencies, scientific partners, and governments in the industrialized and developing nations.

Piot of UNAIDS Calls IAVI Plan "Bold and Necessary"

Dr. Berkley was joined at the Geneva press conference unveiling the Scientific Blueprint by Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS and a member of IAVI's board of directors, and by leading vaccine researchers from around the world. Those scheduled to attend include Dr. Jaap Goudsmit of the Netherlands and Dr. Vulimiri Ramalingaswami of India, both members of IAVI's Scientific Advisory Committee.

"A safe, effective, accessible vaccine is our only realistic hope for stopping the AIDS epidemic," Dr. Piot said. "IAVI has played an important leadership role in focusing interest in this critical area. The Scientific Blueprint details a bold and necessary global program to achieve success in the shortest time possible," Piot added.

New Grants from Bill Gates and UK Government

Dr. Berkley also announced a number of new financial commitments to IAVI that will allow it to begin immediately implementing the Scientific Blueprint. These contributions include a US$1.5 million grant from the William H. Gates Foundation, the charitable foundation established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and £200,000 from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DIFD). Berkley also disclosed that the Levi Strauss Foundation had recently become IAVI's first major corporate funder.

IAVI also receives ongoing funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Starr Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Until There's A Cure Foundation, the World Bank and UNAIDS.

"The grants from the Gates Foundation, the UK, and Levi Strauss represent IAVI's first major commitments from a private individual, a government, and a corporation, respectively," Dr. Berkley said. "We salute them for their leadership."

Berkley also said he was "gratified that a forward-thinking leader like Bill Gates was willing to invest in IAVI's scientific program."

Bill and Melinda Gates: "End AIDS For All Time"

"Melinda and I are committed to building a future in which AIDS is part of the past. As parents, and as believers in science and technology, we make this gift with the hope that a safe, accessible vaccine can be developed to end AIDS for all time," said Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the trustee of the William H. Gates Foundation. "This will require a sustained global effort and creative thinking from organizations at all levels. We hope our commitment to IAVI will inspire others to join this worthy cause."

The UK Government said it was making its grant to signal support for a companion IAVI proposal, a plan to create International AIDS Vaccine Purchase and Development Funds. These funds would speed the development of AIDS vaccines and ensure their distribution in poorer countries.

"The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) wish, through their contribution of £200,000 to IAVI, to signal their strong support for IAVI's international advocacy work to establish Vaccine Purchase and Development funds," DFID said. "DFID recognises that an International Vaccine Purchase Fund can help to ensure that an effective vaccine, once developed, can be made widely available and should benefit the poorest nations and the poorest sections of society."

Berkley also disclosed that the World Bank had recently increased its financial commitment to IAVI fivefold, to $1 million this year, from $200,000 last year. "We're working closely with the Bank to help create indigenous AIDS vaccine R & D projects in developing countries," Berkley added.

The new gifts announced in Geneva, which bring IAVI's total funds on hand and commitments to approximately US $15 million, will allow IAVI to create the first of three to six International Product Development teams envisioned by the Blueprint. Berkley said IAVI expects to have the starting components of the first team in place by September.

Key Recommendations of IAVI's Scientific Blueprint

Key findings and recommendations in the Blueprint include:

Most scientists now agree that a safe and effective vaccine to stop AIDS is possible.
Funds earmarked for basic research have grown substantially, but product development and clinical testing have not kept pace.
The product development pipeline is flowing slowly; as a result, the world is not on track to identifying a safe vaccine within a decade.
Novel vaccine concepts are not moving into human trials for lack of corporate sponsorship. Private sector involvement is crucial in moving novel vaccine concepts forward.
Multiple efficacy trials of AIDS vaccine candidates will be necessary in order to achieve success. Such trials would best be conducted in epidemic locations in developing countries.
A nine-year, $350 million to $500 million investment above current expenditures would greatly increase opportunities for success.
Developing country scientists and communities must be full partners in AIDS vaccine development efforts.
These partnerships can be fostered through the creation of International Product Development Teams, three to six of which should be created as soon as possible.
IAVI's Goal: AIDS Vaccine for Use Throughout the World

IAVI is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996. Its mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Lean in structure and catalytic in nature, IAVI's work focuses on three areas: education and advocacy; accelerating scientific progress; and creating a more supportive environment for vaccine development.

IAVI has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., and representation in Europe and Africa. Its Scientific Advisory Committee is made up of leading scientists from nine nations.

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